Senator Serrano Opposes Legislation Requiring Fingerprinting Food Stamp Recipients

José M. Serrano

June 22, 2007

Senator José M. Serrano (D-Bronx/Manhattan) voted against legislation (S.6274) that would require all persons 18 years and older in a household applying for or receiving food stamp benefits to submit to fingerprinting.

"The idea of fingerprinting recipients will have a devastating effect on our most vulnerable population, New Yorkers who are already leery of participating in government programs," said Senator Serrano.

"I have championed efforts to eliminate fraud in our social services programs, including the Food Stamp Program. But the reality is mandatory fingerprinting is punitive and counterproductive. We have a capable database system of cross checks and failsafes that can easily verify individual recipients and eliminate duplicates."

Senator Serrano said opposition to this measure is broad and intense from nearly every major non-profit group dealing with New York’s needy population.

"We need to listen to the experts when it comes to dealing with running an efficient Food Stamp Program," said Senator Serrano. "These are the people who are in the trenches every day trying to feed nearly 2 million New York families who are undernurished and need assistance. What these advocates are telling us is fingerprinting adults would cause havoc to an already overburdened and underutilized program."

"We are targeting those New Yorkers -- the elderly and disabled, the working poor and minorities -- that not only are most in need but will, for various cultural and socio-economic reasons, have a difficult time meeting the new requirements."

Senator Serrano said many working poor men and women will be unable to take the time off from their hourly jobs to visit food stamp centers that are only open during regular business hours. Homebound recipients will also find it difficult to visit a center.

"Since food stamps are 100% federally funded, New York stands to lose millions of dollars in federal aid that could go to feeding our needy," said Senator Serrano.

"What our state government should be doing is coming up with ideas to expand participation in the Food Stamp program, not putting up roadblocks," said Senator Serrano. "It’s our moral obligation to help those in need. It’s how just societies are judged. I’m afraid the intent of this legislation is misguided and mean-spirited."