Tags: fingerprints | food | stamps | fraud

Fingerprints Would Reduce Fraud in Food-Stamp Program

Thursday, 12 Jan 2012 09:46 AM

There are legislators and members of the media who believe that if participation in a government program like food stamps requires fingerprinting, the beneficiary of the program is stigmatized.

I think that is ridiculous. Every member of the armed forces is fingerprinted, and has been since the days I served in World War II.

Today, I believe most, if not all, federal government employees and members of Congress are fingerprinted. I don’t believe any of those people feel stigmatized, nor should they.

My recollection is that every baby — at least when I was born 87 years ago — was foot printed.

Yes, fingerprints help in recording and will also help in reducing fraud by allowing the weeding out of possible fraud. The most obvious is someone registering under different names to secure more than the allocation of food stamps they are entitled to.

The food stamps program is one of the federal government’s best programs.

It not only feeds hungry people, including large numbers of children, in every state of the union, it feeds the bottom line of farmers, selling their produce to these impoverished people using government food stamps.

In the Great Depression, my family, made up of mother, dad and three children lived through a period when my father was out of a job. In those days, there was no food stamp program.

I recall on one occasion, my dad had only $5 in his pocket before a major religious holiday and was worried that we wouldn’t have a holiday dinner. He asked an aunt to lend him $15 and she did, and we never forgot her generous act for the balance of her life.

We revered her for that act.

Reasonable people in this day and age when we are as a nation in a huge deficit situation and there is any reasonable possibility of fraud in a government program such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and a host of other programs, are willing to take reasonable measures to safeguard them from fraud.

The New York City Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration, Robert Doar, responded to an editorial in The New York Times which criticized the use of fingerprinting for those applying for food stamps.

His letter defending fingerprinting follows:

To The Editor: With an increase of nearly 500,000 people since 2008, the New York City Food Stamp program today provides more than 1.8 million New Yorkers benefits worth more than $3 billion a year. Given the magnitude of the program, it is imperative that we protect its integrity by preventing duplicate benefits.

Requiring applicants to be electronically fingerprinted is a simple and effective way to prevent duplication and fraud by ensuring that people cannot be approved for multiple food-stamp benefits, as was too common in the years before welfare reform.

Just a quick glance at the facts and you would understand that the purpose is to deter and detect fraud before it happens, which is why it is not surprising that the process does not lead to criminal prosecutions.

Referring low-income New Yorkers for prosecution solely because they once tried to get duplicate food-stamp benefits is not our goal, nor is it a good use of taxpayer dollars. During the last year, by catching potential duplicate benefits before being issued, the process has saved $5 million in taxpayer dollars at a cost of less than $190,000.

Last month, the Obama administration awarded the city the Hunger Champion citation, for our efforts to help struggling New Yorkers receive food-stamp benefits. New York City should be proud of the outstanding efforts we have made in providing assistance to people and families in need.

ROBERT DOAR
Commissioner, New York City
Human Resources Administration
New York, Jan. 2, 2012

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