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Continue to Deter Fraud in Food Stamp Reforms

June 24, 2003

Re "Smart Food Stamp Reforms," editorial, June 18: The Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services agrees that families who apply for food stamps should be allowed to keep one dependable car to assist them in securing and retaining employment. However, we must reject The Times' call for the elimination of fingerprinting as a welfare fraud deterrent.

AB 231 would also eliminate fingerprinting in two cash assistance programs, CalWORKS and General Relief, where the incentive for fraud is much greater than it is for food stamps. False IDs are commonplace today, and cheaters can easily apply for multiple welfare benefits. The state decided to require fingerprinting based on a successful two-year pilot in Los Angeles that reduced welfare fraud by tens of millions of dollars. Today's lower fraud rate indicates that the fingerprint system is working as designed. Abandoning fingerprinting would be the equivalent of abandoning sunscreen as a response to not getting sunburned.

Your editorial goes on to say that most fraud occurs when recipients "resell their food stamps for cash on street corners" and that the funds for fingerprinting would probably be better spent prosecuting illegal traffic in food stamps.

It's important to note that last month, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved a plan to eliminate food stamp coupons over the next year and to issue cash and food benefits through automated electronic benefits issuance cards. This means that future food stamp transactions will be done in stores for food and not on street corners for cash.

Bryce Yokomizo

Director, L.A. County

Department of Public

Social Services

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