Friday, October 2, 2009

Food Stamp Fingerprinting: State vs. USDA

A potentially devastating time issue has become evident for those in Texas collecting food stamp benefits. The problem is laid out in the article, "A food stamp fingerprint feud," by Corrie Maclaggan. "Texas is failing to process more than a third of applications within the 30 days required by the federal government, and the state is improperly denying some eligible families," Maclaggan reports. The United States Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service places the blame on the current, time consuming protocol of fingerprinting each applicant, as well as each member of the applicant's household who is over the age of eighteen. The USDA is strongly encouraging that the state "speeds up its application processing," or else "its federal funds will be at risk." The state of Texas argues that fingerprinting is an effective way to prevent applicants from collecting benefits under more than one name. The process resulted in the state investigating an underwhelming four people last year, however. Still, Texas officials claim it is impossible to count the number of people fingerprinting scares away from committing fraud. Numerous supporters of ending the practice do not think it is cost effective or ethical. "Just because you're low-income, you should not be subject to the suspicion that you have fraudulent behavior," said state representative Eddie Rodriguez. The USDA says they will not force the state to end the practice of fingerprinting, but "will consider next steps" if the applicant processing time does not improve.
I think this article is important because it sheds light on a process that was previously unknown to me. It made me understand how lengthy and complicated the application process for Federal benefits can be. It's important because now I know that the USDA and state of Texas are both doing what they believe is right in order to get aid to those who need it, even though Texas is more about getting aid to the right people and the USDA is more about getting aid to those who need it as quickly and efficiently as possible. This topic drew me in and now I will be looking to see the compromise they reach.

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