Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/13/2011 05:57:06 PM PDT

(The Associated Press)

A new state law ending a long-standing practice of fingerprinting food stamp applicants has drawn criticism from San Bernardino County Supervisor Neil Derry, who said he will push to continue the practice in the county.

Derry calls the new law a “step backward” for California. He believes it only increases people’s dependency on government handouts and the potential for even more fraud.

“I think we have high rates of welfare fraud and some of the most generous benefits in the country,” Derry said.

Derry said he feels it’s important to restrict the use of taxpayer-funded welfare programs for people who actually need the help and aren’t out to abuse the system.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed A.B. 6 into law on Oct. 6 in a package of legislative bills designed to increase the number of poor residents receiving food stamps and other state-administered benefits.

Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, D-Arleta, authored A.B. 6. He said the change in law is expected to create $850 million in increased federal benefits to low income Californians, translating into more than $1.4 billion in increased economic activity statewide and nearly $10 million in additional local tax revenue.

Derry, however, wants to keep the practice in San Bernardino County, even if it means dipping into the county’s general fund to do it. He said he doesn’t know how much it would cost the county to continue the practice, or what the potential blowback would be.

“If this is a deterrent for people to commit fraud, then the only reason that you would get rid of the program is you think fraud is OK,” Derry said.

But Derry is likely facing an uphill battle in a county facing an unemployment rate of more than 14 percent and a deficit of $134 million over the next five years.

In addition to being very expensive, analysts say the fingerprinting requirement has done little to deter fraud, while other, more inexpensive programs are meeting that criteria.

To read entire story, click here.