Mike Bloomberg to Cuomo: Don’t Bring Us Back to the Bad Old Days Before Food Stamps Fingerprinting


Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to go back to the “bad old days” and Mayor Michael Bloomberg won’t stand for it. That’s what Bloomberg said this morning on his weekly appearance on WOR’s “The John Gambling Show,” when discussing food stamps policy.

This latest governor-mayor showdown concerns Cuomo’s recent push to eliminate a policy which requires fingerprints for food stamp recipients — a rule that he says stigmatizes welfare and slows down the process. Bloomberg, though, argues that fingerprinting is necessary to stop New Yorkers from abusing the benefits.

“We forget how easy it is to go back to the bad old days when anybody that wanted to get subsidies, whether they deserved or not, just walked up and said I’m taking it,” he said. “You can’t go back to those days. … We’ve saved five million dollars this year alone because the fingerprints caught 1,900 people.”

It’s one issue where the governor and the mayor have directly clashed. In his State of the State speech earlier this week, Cuomo called for an increased participation in the food stamp program and a removal of barriers to participation. “We must stop fingerprinting for food. No child should go hungry in the great State of New York and we will do all that we can to prevent it,” reads the State of the State book.

Opponents of the fingerprinting argue that it slows lines and creates a stigma around food stamps.

But everyone’s doing it, Bloomberg defended this morning. “We fingerprint anybody that comes to work for New York City…. Most companies do it in this day and age. I don’t know who doesn’t.”

It won’t hurt you, he added: “It’s not painful, it doesn’t take any time.”

Plus, Bloomberg said, “Number one, we should be working to get people jobs where they don’t need food stamps, not just get more people on food stamps. We lose sight a little bit of what we’re trying to do here.”

There have been recent reports about the increasing demand for food stamps and the mess this is causing at city agencies (Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand earlier this week called for a 30% increase in funding for food stamps).

But the mayor says this has nothing to do with fingerprinting, since such a high percentage of eligible city residents are getting food stamps compared to other parts of the state where there are no fingerprinting rules.

Bloomberg will have a word with Cuomo, or as some folks see him, the “co-mayor” of New York City. “I’ll talk to the governor about it and try to convince him that this is just not a good idea,” he said.

In other Cuomo-gets-involved-in-city-business news, Bloomberg discussed Cuomo’s plan for a convention center and casino in Queens this morning.

He gave some lukewarm support: “Convention centers are very expensive and very hard to make money with them,” he said, adding later, “There’s going to be lots of work to do. And the governor’s put his team to it. … Let’s see if we can get something done.”