Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday called for the end of the controversial Bloomberg administration policy of fingerprinting all food stamp applicants.
New York City and the state of Arizona are the only municipalities in the country that follow this procedure.
“There is never an excuse for letting any child in New York go to bed hungry. Statewide, 1 in 6 children live in homes without enough food on the table. Yet 30 percent of New Yorkers eligible for food stamps — over 1.4 million people —do not receive them, leaving over $1 billion in federal funds unclaimed every year,” said Cuomo in his State of the State speech.
“We must increase participation in the food stamp program, remove barriers to participation, and eliminate the stigma associated with this program. And we must stop fingerprinting for food. No child should go hungry in the great State of New York and we will do all that we can to prevent it,” he added.
The state previously fingerprinted all state residents applying for food stamps, but outlawed it. However, Bloomberg asked for and a received a waiver from the law for the city from former Gov. Elliot Spitzer.
The Bloomberg administration, which did not have comment on Cuomo’s statement at press time, has long maintained the finger imaging prevents and deters food stamp fraud.
“Some may be inadvertent and some may be an attempt to take advantage of the system, but with a savings of $5.3 million in 2010 alone, and at a cost of $183,000, the benefit of finger imaging to the taxpaying public is clear,” Bloomberg spokeswoman Samantha Levine told Our Time Press in a previous story on the issue printed a month ago.
Cuomo’s announcement also comes as the city dropped about 13,000 New Yorkers from the federally funded food stamp program in November.
The reported drops come after several city council members have been lobbying the Bloomberg administration to do away with fingerprinting.
“The Bloomberg Administration must explain not only this drastic decline, but its overall management of the food stamp program, which has seen enrollment fluctuations over the last year and still requires applicants to be fingerprinted,” said City Councilman Al Vann.
“It is deeply disturbing that approximately 13,000 New Yorkers were dropped from the food stamp program in the same month as Thanksgiving, and when hunger and poverty remain at near record levels in our city,” he added.