Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going around the state this week telling folks about his 2012-2013 executive budget — and while he was visiting New York City yesterday, he took the opportunity to push his food stamp agenda. Y’know, the agenda that has the governor directly butting heads with Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who is usually a pretty powerful, does-what-he-wants kind of dude.
Cuomo mentioned his distaste for requiring food stamp applicants to get fingerprinted earlier this month in his State of the State speech, and the mayor has come out strongly on the opposing side numerous times, arguing that fingerprinting is necessary and saves the city millions of dollars by stopping fraudulent recipients.
Runnin’ Scared was not able to get to Flushing Thursday for the speech, but we caught up with an advocate from the Food Bank For New York City who attended to hear her thoughts on Cuomo’s mention of food stamps. Spoiler alert: She was happy!
“It’s tremendously encouraging that he’s chosen to take this on,” Triada Stampas, senior director of governor relations for the Food Bank, told Runnin’ Scared last night. “He’s talking about no child going hungry and expanding access to the food stamp program by eliminating barriers.”
Opponents of fingerprinting argue that it creates a stigma around receiving welfare and can slow the process down for those who need the services. Plus, nowhere else in the state does it. Bloomberg countered that it’s necessary, saying that it helped the city catch 1,900 people who should not have been receiving food stamps. He said that many companies do it and the city does it too for all its workers — so, you know, not that big of a deal.
Stampas begged to differ — she said that it can be a challenge for food stamp recipients to find the time to come into the city agencies where they must give their fingerprints. Her organization, she said, has worked hard to bring the food stamp process to community-based organizations, but with this requirement, individuals still have to go to city offices and it’s a pain.
“It can still be a great inconvenience, especially for people with caregiving responsibilities,” she said.
Advocates like Stampas have other reasons to cheer for the governor, too — his budget creates an additional $1 million in state dollars for the Nutrition Outreach and Education Program, which Stampas said would help with food stamp outreach. She said it’s about the larger context of Cuomo prioritizing the hunger issue. This kind of support in Albany can be crucial, she said, especially at a time when the number of those needing food stamps has jumped from around 1.1 million before the recession to now more than 1.8 million (Apparently, that exceeds the number of those who voted in the mayoral election).
When we asked Stampas about Bloomberg, she didn’t have much to say: “He’s been very consistent with that. It’s his position and it’s a postion that we don’t agree with. That’s where things stand frankly.”