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Cuomo Urged to “Clear Red Tape” for New Yorkers Seeking Food Help in 2012

December 23, 2011

NEW YORK - Not quite the holiday spirit. That's what a new report says about New York's fingerprinting requirement for food stamps, which it says is causing the wrong people to go hungry.

New York City got it wrong a staggering 97 percent of the time, according to the Empire Justice Center report, denying benefits to people who should have received food stamps.

Susan Dooha, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York, says Gov. Andrew Cuomo has the power to correct the problem.

"The governor can issue an executive order to remove the red tape in the way of people getting the food help that they need."

The economic downturn especially has been hard on people with disabilities in New York. The report notes that New York and Arizona are the only two states which still require fingerprints for their food-assistance programs.

It would be one thing if the fingerprinting actually prevented fraud, says Cathy Roberts, the Empire Justice Center's senior paralegal, but her group found that in the past year in New York City, it didn't happen 97 percent of the time.

"Finger imaging in food stamps is bad for New Yorkers, because it's not keeping ineligible people out of the program, like people who are trying to scam the system. It's keeping out some of the most vulnerable people who are eligible for food stamps."

New York seniors also are being hurt, says Bill Ferris, AARP state legislative representative, and his group is joining the call for Cuomo to end the fingerprint requirement for food stamps.

"One out of four New Yorkers who are 60 years and older, and are living at home, are really nutritionally at risk. We believe that this policy doesn't help that statistic at all."

Details of the study are online at empirejustice.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY