Debate Over Food Stamp Fingerprinting Heats Up in New York

By: Justin Chan

After USDA rebranded food stamps in order to save some of its recipients the sense of humiliation attached to them, New York City is now in the middle of a huge debate over whether food stamp recipients should be fingerprinted.

As NPR reported, the state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, has been at odds with the city's mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Cuomo has been a longtime critic of fingerprinting, claiming that it purposely steers needy people away from applying for food stamps. Bloomberg, on the other hand, has argued that the process limits fraud.

The city is the only one in the state that still requires fingerprinting for food stamps. New York is one of two states - the other being Arizona - that institutes the fingerprinting policy. Since then, the public has been divided over whether the process is effective. "It's basically like when you're going through central booking or something. You're getting booked and you feel like you're getting fingerprinted, with one finger here and one finger there," said Nicole Cuffee, a food stamp recipient who admitted that she felt stigmatized by the whole process.

Many nonprofit organizations that focus on low-income families have echoed a similar sentiment, saying that more of those in dire need of assistance will ask for it if the fingerprinting process ends. "There's no doubt that there will be a rise," said Erasma Beras-Monticciolo of the East River Development Alliance, which handles food stamp applications. "It's a continuous dialogue with them about why you should access these benefits, what it's going to mean for yourself to create some stability in your life."

Criticism of the fingerprinting process in the city comes after it was reported that the number of food stamps administered throughout the nation reached a record high last year. Some, however, believe that the fingerprinting process will limit the number of people who are attempting to cheat the system.

Oliver Briscoe, a food stamp recipient who recieves $200 worth of stamps per month admits,"A person who is in need of food will embrace the fact of getting fingerprinted to keep themselves fed, to keep their families unstarved."

Photo: bcymet

For more food news, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)