The 311 on Food Stamps: What You Need To Know

| January 18, 2012 4:00 AM | Updated: February 1, 2012 10:23 AM

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the practice of fingerprinting for food stamps should be abolished. Mayor Michael Bloomberg disagrees. MetroFocus/Kevon Greene

It’s an undeniable fact that millions of New Yorkers are hungry and need assistance to feed their families. More than 3 million a month, to be exact. Demand has increased, too. In July, the city’s Human Resources Administration hired 100 workers to deal with the influx of New Yorkers applying for food stamps and rent-assistance, and plans to hire 100 more, reported the Daily News.

But just how to help is a contentious issue.

Tensions over food stamp distribution erupted in earnest in early January when Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his State of the State speech, said he would put an end to New York City’s policy of fingerprinting food stamp recipients — a policy Mayor Michael Bloomberg steadfastly supports.

“One of the things we do now and makes the stigma actually worse and creates a barrier for families coming forward to get food stamps is we require fingerprinting. I’m saying stop fingerprinting for families,” said Cuomo.

Spurred on by the strong opinions and the money at stake — Cuom’s 2012 budget includes an additional $1 million for the state Nutrition Outreach and Education Program, a food stamp program – MetroFocus decided to take a look at the issue of food stamps in New York. Here’s what you should know:

Q: How many people in New York receive food stamps?

A: According to the state office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, 3,046,972 individuals received food stamps statewide in November of 2011. In New York City, 1,819,653 individuals got food stamps that same month.

The number of recipients has grown by nearly 33 percent — or 1 million people — since November 2008, according to data from the Temporary and Disability Assistance office.

Q: Who gets food stamps?

A: Food stamps are awarded based on need to individuals, families, senior citizens and the disabled. Eligible households can receive benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if they fall into a lower-wage income bracket. For example, a single individual with no dependents and an annual gross income of $14,160 or less is eligible for food stamp benefits. For more info, see New York’s Temporary and Disability Assistance website.

New York City is the only municipality in the state that requires food stamp recipients to be fingerprinted. Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to change that. MetroFocus/Kevon Greene

Q: What’s the deal with fingerprinting for food stamps?

A: The practice of the state requiring fingerprints for food stamp recipients was abolished in 2007 by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, but New York City maintained the practice. Arizona is the only other place in the U.S. that requires fingerprinting for food stamps. Bloomberg says fingerprinting is imperative to prevent fraud and protect taxpayer dollars. People “game the system,” Bloomberg told the New York Times, by double-dipping and receiving benefits twice. In a “Letter to the Editor” also published in the Times, the commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, Robert Doar, said catching potential duplicate benefits before they were issued saved taxpayers $5 million in the last year.

But Cuomo says fingerprinting is a deterrent to potential food stamp recipients. He believes 30 percent more hungry New Yorkers would get food stamps if fingerprinting were not a requirement.

Q: Where do the 2013 mayoral election candidates stand on fingerprinting?

A: All the candidates running to be the next mayor of New York City oppose Bloomberg’s fingerprinting policy — including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the frontrunner and candidate with the closest ties to Bloomberg.

“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 Quinn in a statement. “The mayor should not even think of challenging Governor Cuomo’s decision.”

As for public opinion, a poll released on Monday showed that New Yorkers are almost evenly divided on the issue, with 50 percent of New Yorkers disagreeing with Cuomo’s plan to abolish fingerprinting and 46 percent agreeing.

Q: How much does the food stamp program cost? Where does the money come from?

A: In November 2011, benefits received through food stamps equaled $459,862,827 statewide and $290,793,521 in New York City, according to the state office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

In Cuomo’s State of the State address, he said an additional 30 percent of New Yorkers — equaling $1 billion in unclaimed benefits — were eligible for food stamps but weren’t receiving them.

New York state food stamp funding is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is paid for almost entirely with federal dollars.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to abolish the fingerprinting requirement for food stamp recipients in New York City. AP Photo/Hans Pennink

Q: How do I sign up for food stamps?

A: To find out if you qualify for food stamps or to apply for them, visit the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance’s website. For extra help, contact the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Food stamps are administered monthly through an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card.

Q: Where are New Yorkers spending their food stamp dollars?

A: Although specific numbers aren’t available on what kinds of stores (grocery stores, delis, corner markets…) see the most food stamps in New York, we do know that the number of people using them at Greenmarkets and farmer’s markets around the city grew by nearly 25 percent in 2011.

 

  • Paul

    the only reason one should worry about being finger printed is if they’re doing something wrong otherwise what’s the problem. the system is fraught with abuse and should be brought under cotrol. the old system doesn’t work and if finger printing saves what they say it’s worth the time and effort

    • Dan

      I agree. If you have nothing to hide, what’s the problem? Think of the beleagured taxpayer. Years ago there was no food stamps.

      • oreg

        There “were” no food stamps was there ?

  • Charline

    NYS should fingerprint people who apply for food stamps.

    Over the past year, I have encountered people who receive food stamp benefits and then resell it for cash.

    We need some kind of control to monitor this problem. Meanwhile, people who really need food stamps are not able to get it.

    • Dannid

      How would fingerprinting prove that people are reselling them for cash?

  • Keith

    This is disgusting. Typical NYS politics. You know what’s time-consuming? Doing a tax return. Why not exempt people from that? Total double-standard in this, state. Being a productive citizen requires a lot of time consumption. What’s ironic is that a bill was just passed in the US Congress that makes it a crime to purchase bottles with food stamps and then immediately dumping it out and recycling it for the value. This is a bigger issue for items such as office water bottles, which is worth a lot more than a soda can. If consumers of food stamps are really “fighting hunger,” or so says Joel Berg, then why would legislation like this even be necessary, aside from the obvious fraud prevention that is supposedly uncessary.

  • Sue Padgett

    I don’t really see how people can sell food stamps because you use a card and need a password to get to them. I don’t mind being fingerprinted and have actually been there. I have nothing to hide. Keith, I don’t know anything about that bill you were talking about. Sue

    • Dannid

      Its really easy…either ppl give out the pin and receive cash for what they bought the person or you take that person shopping and they pay you cash. You understand now?

    • Roger

      You will mind when someone steals your prints on a glass that you used and leaves it at a murder scene!

  • Keith

    Hi Sue,

    It’s a practice called “Water Dumping.” It’s actually a USDA regulation, not a statute passed by congress.

    http://www.fns.usda.gov/cga/PressReleases/2011/0263.htm

    It’s USDA Release No. 0263.11 if the link doesn’t work.

  • Nick

    Why not give people “food” instead of stamps. With all the nutritional “Experts” we have it should not be difficult to come up with a list. The there would be not “trading” since they all receive the same type of food, it would sure help our farmers and factories in the planning process and the kids might even get something that is good for them. I also believe fingerprinting should be done and accessible nationwide to discourage double dipping.

    • Roger

      Used to be that way when I was a kid, but today it obviously not economically possible, when you have nearly 2,000,000 people in NYC alone on food stamps.

  • JOE G

    SOMETHING MUST BE DONE. THE ILLEGALS GET FOOD STAPS THEN GOTO THE BODEGA AND SELL THEM FOR 50CENTS ON THE DOLLAR FOR CASH TO BUY DRUGS. THIS IS A WELL-KNOWN SITUATION TO THE GOV BUT IT FAILS TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT.

  • Patricia G. Jones

    Thanks to this page, I have just learned that I am ineligible for food stamps because my petty Social Security payment ($1,508/month, less $100 for Medicare) is TOO MUCH. For anyone who lives in Manhattan — and I have been in this apartment 22 years — the amount of Social Security is a joke. I worked, mostly full-time, for 40 years. For a large part of that 40 years I was earning, on average, $40-50,000 a year. Now that I am old and in failing health, my rent (frozen by SCRIE, thank God, at $1029), plus utilities totalling about $400 (Con Edison, telephone, cable and internet), add up to about $20 MOLRE THAN WHAT I RECEIVE FROM SOCIAL SECURITY. If I didn’t have a sister who was lucky enough to marry a rich man, I WOULD LITERALLY BE STARVING. I could give the proverbial tinker’s damn about being fingerprinted — I haven’t done anything. But I can’t be the only person in this situation. In my opinion, Solcial Security payments should be calculated on the basis of more realistic, LOCAL cost-of-living (I’m sure I could live reasonably well somewhere in Arkansas, but iin New York City the payment is a sick joke). Either that (or both), the top iincome limit should be raised to something more in line with reality. At the present limit, one would have to be receiving $1,180/month. Who can live on that in New York City? SERIOUSLY! Not everybody has a safety net like my sister (a well I have gone to far too often, and it’s not all that deep to begin with). So does one give up a home of 20+ years? In my case, I would have to move completely out of my neighborhood, and probably out of the borough, where I would have no friends or connections at all. What a payback for 40 years of contributing to the Social Security system.

  • JingJong

    No problem Andy get their DNA.

  • jam741955

    yes

  • Anthony

    I work for NYC and I had to PAY $75 out of my pocket to have myself fingerprinted before I could start. Stigma? Ridiculous.

    BTW, what kind of parent denies their child food because they don’t want to be stigmatized by being fingerprinted? Really.

    GET REAL Cuomo. I think there are bigger issues other than protecting the dignity of the food stamp recipients.

    • Roger

      There is no bigger issue than protecting and preserving the constitution, moron!

  • LINDA

    I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO FIND A SITE OR PHONE # THAT WILL ALLOW ME TO STOP MY SONS FOOD STAMP BENIFITS. I HAVE FOUND MANY SITES TO START UP THE BENIFITS BUT NOT A ONE ON WHO TO CONTACT TO STOP THE BENIFITS. I CONTACTED SS TO STOP THOSE BENIFITS AND THOUGHT THAT IN RETURN THEY WOULD CONTACT THE FOOD STAMP SITE TO LET THEM KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING BUT NOTHING. I HAVE REPEATLY CALLED AND LET MY INFORMATION ON WHERE TO CALL ME BACK BUT NO ONE HAS RETURNED MY CALLS. COULD THIS BE ONE OF THE REASONS SO MUCH FRUD CONTINUES? NO ONE WANTS TO STOP THE BENIFITS JUST KEEP HANDING THEM OUT. I BELEIVE SOMEONE ELSE HAS GOTTEN HIS CARD AND IS USING THE FOOD STAMPS BUT CAN NOT REACH ANY PERSON. AS A TAX PAYER THIS LEAVES ME WONDERING!!!!!

    • Roger

      If someone else has his card, why doesn’t he contact the food stamp office, if he got on food stamps, he must know where their office is! By the way, you sound dumb as hell. Like father like son!

    • Roger

      Mother like son, whatever!

  • Sue

    I am all for helping people, but the abuse needs to be cleaned up. People who have worked all their life and then become sick/disabled, they deserve the help. 18 yr olds who have babies they cannot afford DO NOT. Those who have 5 kids with different fathers and do not use birth control do NOT.

    • Roger

      The problems you address wil not be stopped by fingerprinting. Besides fingerprinting for this purpose violates ones constitutional right to privacy as well as the fith amendment! The right not to speak!

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