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Mayor Bloomberg And Governor Cuomo Differ On Fingerprinting Food Stamp Recipients

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Spencer T Tucker
Spencer T Tucker

Governor Andrew Cuomo vowed in his State of the State address Wednesday to end the electronic fingerprinting of food stamp recipients in New York City. The practice, eliminated in the rest of New York state by Governor Spitzer in 2007, was preserved in the Big Apple at the behest of the Bloomberg administration.

And now, Mayor Bloomberg is once again defending the policy.

Cuomo said Wednesday that fingerprinting makes the stigma of food stamps "actually worse, and creates a barrier for families coming forward to get food stamps."

During a press conference Thursday, Bloomberg argued the opposite.

"There's no stigma attached to being fingerprinted," he said, according to The New York Times. "We have 230,000 employees in New York City and almost all of them get fingerprinted. Most companies fingerprint in this day and age -- at least the smart ones do."

He also noted said that fingerprinting is a valuable tool in preventing people from "gaming the system." The city caught 1,900 people fraudulently attempting to get food stamps last year, according to the Mayor, and yet, the percentage of people eligible for food stamps who receive them was higher here than in the rest of the state where there is no fingerprinting.

The number of New Yorkers on food stamps has skyrocketed in recent years. As of September 2011, 1.8 million New Yorkers were receiving food stamps. In September 2006, a little over a million New Yorkers received the assistance.

Bloomberg's stance on the issue has made an opponent out of a usual ally.

"Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg and I couldn’t disagree more -- fingerprinting food stamp applicants is a time-consuming and unnecessary process, which stigmatizes applicants and has prevented 24,000 New Yorkers from getting the help they deserve," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn Thursday, according to The Times. "The mayor should not even think of challenging Governor Cuomo's decision."

The Mayor and Quinn similarly butted heads in November over a Bloomberg policy requiring homeless adults to prove they have no other options before receiving shelter.