Andrew Cuomo: New Yorkers Will No Longer Need Fingers To Get Food Stamps

Good news for the nutritionally challenged: you'll soon no longer need fingers to get food stamps.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that the wheels are in motion to do away with a policy that requires food stamp recipients to submit their fingerprints to the government. The policy is considered by many to be offensive because it seems to imply that poor people are criminals.

Aside from sparing people the degradation of having to submit their fingerprints to apply for food stamps, ending the policy, Cuomo says, will remove a barrier that often prevents people from applying for the program.

According to the governor's office, one in six New York children live in homes without enough food. However, 30 percent of New Yorkers eligible for food stamps -- over 1.4 million people -- don't receive them. Cuomo says this leaves more than $1 billion in unclaimed federal funds designated for the food stamp program.

"There is never an excuse for letting any child in New York go to bed hungry," Cuomo says in a statement. "For too long, requiring finger imaging from those eligible for food stamp benefits has created an unnecessary barrier to participation in the program, causing a negative stigma and keeping food off the table for those in need. By removing this barrier, additional New Yorkers in need will be able to access the benefits they deserve without having to submit to this unneeded and burdensome requirement."

"Deserve" is an interesting way to describe government assistance, but it's not surprising coming from a guy who in his State of the State address actually vowed to get more people on food stamps.

Cuomo says that by getting more people on food stamps will help boost the economy. His logic is as follows:

"According to a 2010 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $5 in new food stamp benefits can generate $9 in total community spending, and every additional dollar's worth of food stamp benefits generates 17 to 47 cents of new spending on food. By increasing access to food stamps, eliminating the finger imaging requirement will benefit families as well as the state and local economies."

Cuomo has directed the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to submit new regulations that ditch the fingerprint requirement. The proposed regulations are getting filed today and will be open for 45 days to a public comment period before they're finalized. 

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