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El Diario Blasts New York City’s Finger Imaging Policy

November 5, 2009

New York City must eliminate a bad policy and double standard that makes the poor jump through hoops to access—of all things—food.

The Bloomberg administration requires all recipients of federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP)—what used to be known as food stamps— to provide a fingerprint. This places an unfair burden on families trying to access food, families who are legally entitled to nutrition assistance. And it is an unnecessary practice. While New York State mandates a finger image for cash assistance, it leaves it up to local governments when it comes to food stamps.

States and counties like New Jersey and Yonkers do not finger print poor people trying to eat. Yet, New York City sees it fit to do so. New York City is one of only four places in the United States that requir- es a finger image from individuals who receive SNAP benefits, according to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. The Coalition also notes that states that do not require a finger image have a lower error rate and a higher rate of legal participation in SNAP than New York City.

All adults in a household applying for SNAP have to physically report to the city to be finger imaged, which means they are missing work for a layer of bureaucracy. And if the adult is homebound, the city will visit that person to get their finger image.

This policy has a discriminatory impact well beyond class: Contrast the disparate treatment that poor, white upstate residents are not subjected to with the hurdle imposed by downstate New York on people of largely color.

This policy becomes even more outrageous when the recklessness, theft and abuse on Wall Street are considered. As the city’s Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum has emphasized, “If New Yorkers from Wall Street don’t need to provide finger prints to benefit from the Mayor’s JumpStart program, why should hungry New Yorkers have to provide finger prints for food they need to survive?”

Mayor Bloomberg declined an invitation to participate in a forum on poverty this week, but he should get the message: stop fingerprinting and criminalizing the poor.


View the article here.

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