Friday, July 10, 2009

Why Finger-Imaging is Bad News for Food Stamps

Bad news from Sacramento: Governor Schwarzenegger wants to not only keep the finger-imaging requirement for food stamp applicants, but expand finger-imaging to those receiving In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS).

We at Second Harvest Food Bank are deeply concerned because many of the people we serve are also participants or are eligible for these crucial safety net programs.

Second Harvest supports initiatives that would increase participation in state and federal supplemental food programs. This will relieve strain on our resources, allowing us to concentrate on those in our community who do not qualify for those programs but still meet our income guidelines (approximately 200% of the Federal Poverty Line).


IHSS provides in-home support to elderly, blind, and disabled Californians. This helps prevent them from having to be institutionalized, which is a far more costly alternative to the state than providing services for them in their own homes. Were finger-imaging implemented for this program, participation would assuredly drop, and many more of California’s most vulnerable population would end up in nursing homes.

It has been proven that finger-imaging is a major deterrent to participation in the programs it has been applied to, namely the Food Stamp Program. This program is the main federal nutrition program and it provides credit to low-income families and individuals to be redeemed for food at participating grocery stores.
Finger-imaging makes applicants feel like criminals. Ashamed and embarrassed, many don’t sign up for food stamps, even if they need them and qualify for them.
Furthermore, getting a fingerprint done requires another trip out to government agency offices, which for many of these families means missing work. The money and time lost, and the childcare arrangements during that trip can deter those in need from seeking assistance.

What is more, finger-imaging has not been cost-effective. It is meant to deter multiple-aid fraud, but its cost far outweighs the negligible amount of benefits stolen through fraud. In this economic climate, the governor wants to expand an ineffective system that costs the state more than $8 million a year!

Click on the following links for more information on the governor’s proposal and learn how Food Stamps BOOST our economy in the following articles:
Fingerprinting rule will deter those needing help
Editorial, The San Jose Mercury News

Fairy Tales, Fraud, and Food Stamps (PDF)

California Food Policy Advocates (
Read this lighthearted one-pager on the Governor's serious finger printing expansion efforts. Call the Governor (916.445.2841) and urge him to accept the Legislature’s plan to save millions to by ending finger imaging for food stamps and to abandon his efforts to fingerprint blind, elderly, and disabled Californians receiving IHSS.

Boost in Food-Stamp Funding Percolates Through Economy
The Wall Street Journal

The stimulus that actually IS working
The Dave Ross Show