23. Finger imaging
- Out-of-interviews and SFIS
- Limited use of the images
California was just one of four states in the country that “finger images” food stamp recipients. Effective January 1, 2012, finger imaging will no longer be required for CalFresh. (See AB 6 and ACL 11-83 implementing it.) The requirement will stay in place for CalWORKs, but for joint applications, a SFIS failure cannot lead to a CalFresh denial.
For historical purposes, as well as any residual issues during the transition, the system is described below.
The system used for finger imaging in California is called the Statewide Fingerprint Imaging System (SFIS). It was put in place by legislation in 1996 but did not get implemented statewide until 2000. Even though the legislation did not include it, SFIS takes a photograph in addition to a finger image.
In the Food Stamp Program, as a condition of issuance, all adult household members are subject to finger imaging. In addition, minors applying as separate households are also subject to the requirement [MPP §§ 63-505.141 and 601.123.]
Ineligible non-citizens are subject the requirement if they are the parent of caretaker relative of an applicant child when they live in the home of the child. [See ACL 00-32; Sheyko v. Saenz, 112 Cal.App.4th 675 (2003).]
The authorized representative is only required to comply with SFIS if no household member in the household which they represent is required or able to comply with SFIS requirements. [MPP § 3-601.14.]
A member is considered exempt if s/he meets one or more of the following requirements:
- the household member has no fingers. If so, the person does not have to be fingerprinted but must participate in the photo image portion of the process. [MPP § 63-601.121.]
- the household member has a medically verified physical condition which renders them unable to comply with the requirement. [MPP § 63-601.122.]
- a household member who is under the age of 18, unless s/he is applying for food stamps as his/her own household. [MPP § 63-601.123.]
- the household is certified by an out-of-office interview. If the member is in the office for any reason, the county welfare department should attempt to obtain fingerprint and photo images when the household member(s) is in the office for any reason. [MPP § 63-601.124.] The county cannot require the member(s) to make a special trip to the office solely for SFIS compliance. [MPP § 63-601.124.] (See the subsection below about “out-of-interviews.”)
The requirements may also be postponed on a case-by-case basis. [MPP § 63-601.13.] The conditions for postponement include but are not limited to:
- a temporary medical condition that prevents a household member from complying with SFIS requirements for up to 60 days; for example, hands that are bandaged due to burns. [MPP § 63-601.131.];
- a household member is a resident of a drug or alcohol treatment and rehabilitation center who is unable to leave that center for physical, mental, or legal reasons. The authorized representative then must comply on the person’s behalf. However, once that household member is allowed to come to the county welfare office or if the person is there for different reasons, s/he will be required to comply with SFIS. [MPP § 63-601.132.];
- a household member who is required to participate in the SFIS process and attempts to do so, but is unable to, due to an SFIS equipment problem. The household member shall temporarily receive benefits, and must be informed that s/he has 60 days to fulfill the requirements. [MPP § 63-601.133.]; or
- the household is entitled to expedited (emergency) food stamps, and the SFIS is incapable of completing the process in time for the household to participate, as specified in MPP § 63-301.5. SFIS compliance should occur prior to the issuance of the household’s next allotment. [MPP § 63-601.134.]
Out-of-interviews and SFIS
CDSS has recently been approved for waivers of the face-to-face interview at recertification. Draft regulations indicate that households that have not met the SFIS requirement would have to do so before being recertified. This is confusing for households who are not coming to the food stamp office for another reason. Welf. & Inst. Code § 10830(e)(1) states “that no special trip shall be required.” An All County Letter resolving this point of confusion has not yet been issued.
Limited use of the images
The images are only to be matched against other welfare and food stamp recipients in the system. CDSS or counties may not use or disclose any of the information other than in the prevention or prosecution of fraud. It is not shared with other agencies, including Immigration. [Welf. & Inst. Code § 10830(d).]
If there is a “match”” in the system the county shall notify the applicant. If they appeal the match, it shall be verified by a trained individual before benefits are denied. Upon confirmation of a match, a county fraud investigator shall be notified. [Welf. & Inst. Code § 10830(f).].