Use of Biometric Technology to Reduce
Fraud in the Food Stamp Program
- This is on a document Contract No: FCS 53-3198-6-025
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Biometric identification technology provides automated methods to identify a person
based on physical characteristics—such as fingerprints, hand shape, and characteristics of the eyes
and face—as well as behavioral characteristics—including signatures and voice patterns.
Although used in law enforcement and defense for several years, it has recently been used in
civilian applications and shows some promise to reduce the number of duplicate cases in the Food
Biometric identification systems are currently operational at some level in Arizona,
California (under county initiative, first by Los Angeles County), Connecticut, Illinois,
Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. Finger imaging is the principal form of
technology used in all eight States, though alternative technologies have simultaneously
undergone trials in Massachusetts (facial recognition) and Illinois (retinal scanning). By the end
of 2000, new systems are expected to be in place in California (statewide unified system),
Delaware, and North Carolina. Other States are currently in the initial planning stages, including
Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. However, there is
little information available at this point regarding the specific course and trajectory these States
will follow in terms of system types, implementation schedules, and the benefit programs in which
they will implement the new requirement.
The Food Stamp Act as amended [7 CFR 272.4(f)(1)] requires each State agency to
establish a system to assure that no individual participates in the FSP more than once a month, in more than one jurisdiction, or in more than one household within the State.
The system established to identify such individuals must use identifiers such as names and social security numbers at a minimum, and may use other identifiers, as the State agency deems appropriate.
Under 7 CFR 272.4(f), the use of finger images and other non-intrusive biometric identifiers is permissible in fulfilling this requirement.
Only in Massachusetts (facial matching only) and certain demonstration counties in
California are applicants to each of the major federal and State food and income assistance
programs—the Food Stamp, TANF, and General Assistance programs—currently subject to new
biometric client identification procedures.
Food Stamp Program:
As of September 1999, applicants for food stamps in five States
with biometric identification systems in operation at some level—Arizona, California (LA County
as well as six other counties with county-operated systems), Massachusetts, New York, and
Texas—were required to submit to new client identification procedures. Food stamp applicants in
Connecticut, Illinois, and New Jersey are not currently required to comply. Both California (as it
assimilates all of its counties under one unified statewide system) and Pennsylvania plan to require
food stamp applicants to submit to finger imaging procedures when those systems become
TANF and General Assistance:
Applicants for cash assistance under the Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program are required to submit to new client identification
procedures in seven States with systems in operation, including Arizona, California, Connecticut,
Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas; only TANF applicants in New Jersey currently are
not. Applicants for General Assistance (GA) are required to submit to new identification
procedures in five States, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New
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