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NY Times Editorial Board: End Finger-Imaging for Food Stamps
This morning, The New York Times Editorial Board came out in support of abolishing the finger-imaging requirement for food stamps applicants in New York City.
Click "The Opinion Pages" link, or read full text after the jump:
Published: October 31, 2011
Being poor and needing public assistance is not a crime. Yet some states and cities, including New York City, are gratuitously inflicting punitive measures on people who seek government help.
Gov. Rick Scott of Florida signed a new law in May that requires all applicants for the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to submit a urine sample and pass a drug test. Last week, a federal judge in Orlando temporarily enjoined enforcement of that intrusive policy on grounds it violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.
Judge Mary Scriven, a George W. Bush appointee, correctly ruled that the state demonstrated no “special need” for an exception to the Fourth Amendment that would allow drug testing of all aid applicants without any basis for suspicion. She noted that the State Legislature, in approving the law, ignored its own study that found a lower rate of drug usage among applicants for assistance than among Florida’s population as a whole.
She also pointed out that the state failed to show that drug testing saved money given the cost of administering the program, and she expressed concern that the tests were a substantial invasion of privacy because the results were available to other government agencies, including law enforcement.
New York City, likewise, stigmatizes those applying for food stamps. The Bloomberg administration continues to insist on electronic fingerprints for all food stamp applicants, even though the rest of New York State stopped doing so for most applicants in 2007. Although the value of fingerprinting in preventing fraud and saving money is dubious, there is no doubt that it deters needy, law-abiding New Yorkers from applying for help and deprives the city of millions of dollars in federal nutrition aid.
California and Texas recently lifted a similar fingerprinting requirement, leaving New York City and Arizona as the only jurisdictions in the country to continue the practice for all applicants. Christine Quinn, the New York City Council speaker, in pushing the city to end the policy, is right to call it “unnecessary, costly and punitive.”