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Los Angeles County To Begin Fingerprinting Applicants For AFDC

March 31, 1994

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Expanding the use of fingerprinting to flush out welfare cheats, Los Angeles County will soon start taking the prints of applicants for federal dependent children benefits.

Officials said the requirement, which won state approval Wedneday, will be the nation’s first use of fingerprinting to prevent fraud by applicants for Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the main federal-state welfare program.

″You can use a phony Social Security card or a phony name, but nobody can use a phony fingerprint,″ Gov. Pete Wilson said in a statement. ″We’ve put our finger on the key to eliminating duplicate welfare checks in California.″

Under the anti-fraud program, applicants’ fingerprints are scanned electronically. A computer compares the prints with those of people already receiving benefits. Applicants who refuse to cooperate are denied aid.

In 1991, Los Angeles began taking computer fingerprints from applicants for state general assistance, who are typically single adults.

To extend the program to AFDC applicants, the county needed a federal waiver since it was adding a requirement not in federal rules.

The waiver was granted last year. On Wednesday, the state gave final approval for the county to spend the funds needed for the expansion.

About 100,000 people in Los Angeles County receive general assistance. More than 850,000 people in the county receive AFDC, most of them single mothers and their children.

Fingerprint checks will be expanded statewide if they succeed in thwarting fraud in Los Angeles County.

Wilson administration officials said the program could save $4.2 million its first year in Los Angeles, and as much as $750 million annually if used statewide.

Advocates for the poor attacked the idea.

″This is just the governor’s consistent pattern of harassing poor women who are trying to raise a family,″ said Kevin Aslanian, executive director of the Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations.

″It implies that welfare recipients are cheating. That’s not true. I challenge anybody to raise a family of three on $600 a month.″

In the first six months after Los Angeles County began running fingerprint checks for general assistance in 1991, the county reported cutting its costs by $5.4 million, or more than half.

More than 3,000 people lost their aid for suspected fraud, and more than 200 applicants were denied assistance because they refused to submit their fingerprints.

Fingerprinting for state benefits, also known as home relief, is also done in a few other counties in California and New York state. It has also been proposed in other states.

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