Cuomo rescinds food stamp fingerprint requirement

May 18, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo, speaking by phone to a gathering of advocates for the poor, says he’s rescinded a 14-year-old state regulation that required food stamp recipients be subject to fingerprinting before receiving benefits.  

“Poverty and hunger are not crimes,” said Cuomo. “So we shouldn’t treat the poor or the hungry as criminals.”

The governor says he doesn’t think the finger printing deters fraud.

“It’s not necessary,” Cuomo said.

The governor says new technology that helps verify social security numbers is more effective. He and his aides say the fingerprinting has created a barrier for those who are in need, because of the “negative connotations.”

The governor's office says there are 1.4 million New Yorkers eligible for food stamps who do not receive them, They believe a significant number will now apply, once the regulation expires in about two months.   

Marie Farrell, a student in New York City, applied for food stamps after cancer treatments left her disabled. She says the experience was humiliating and demeaning.

“I felt like I was a criminal,” Farrell said. “And for what? Being hungry.”

Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, who presided over the event, says now Arizona is the only state in the nation that still requires fingerprinting of food stamp recipients. Duffy took a shot at former Governor George Pataki and the legislature who agreed to the fingerprinting of food stamp recipients back in 1998.

“Those that made these rules didn’t go to bed hungry,” said Duffy.

Lieutenant Governor Duffy was asked about the on-going regulation that requires welfare recipients be fingerprinted in New York State.  Duffy demurred.

“Today the focus is on the food programs,” Duffy said. “I don’t want to put the governor in a position to publicly discuss something we have not discussed.”

Some advocates for the poor believe that eliminating the finger printing for welfare recipients, begun under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, should be the next step.