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Rep. Weiner and 27 Members of Congress Call for an End to Finger-Imaging SNAP Applicants

November 30, 2009

As hunger is increasing, more and more people are needing help to feed their families and themselves.  In these times of crisis, the number of people relying on SNAP benefits to buy food has increased.  In New York City and three other states SNAP applicants are required to have a finger imaged taken before receiving benefits.  Representative Weiner and 27 members of Congress from the four areas still requiring finger-imaging have come together to ask USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vislack to end the practice.

Washington, DC – Following reports that more New Yorkers went hungry in 2008 than the year before, Representative Anthony Weiner (D – Brooklyn and Queens), a member of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee and 27 Members of Congress called on Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to end the practice of fingerprinting food stamp applicants.

New York, Texas, California and Arizona require fingerprinting for all new food stamp applicants. Despite claims that this protects against fraud and duplicative benefits, according to the most recent USDA data, payment errors were actually higher in the 4 states that fingerprint. Meanwhile, participation rates for all eligible people in those states that fingerprint were lower. In addition, fingerprinting deters many people in need from applying. According to a March 2007 report by the Urban Institute, fingerprinting led to a 4.3% reduction in food stamp applicants because of the stigma associated with such a practice.

In a letter to Secretary Vilsack, Representatives Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Bob Filner (D-CA), Ed Pastor (D-AZ), Diane Watson (D-CA), Al Green (D-TX), Pete Stark (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), Sam Farr (D-TX), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), George Miller (D-CA), Solomon Ortiz (D-TX), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Michael Honda (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Gene Green (D-TX), Howard Berman (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) wrote: “Eliminating finger imaging would remove significant barriers for residents of these states who need help feeding themselves and their families, which is particularly important during these economic times.”

View the article and the letter.

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