Food stamp debit cards stop working in many states

Temporary shutdown during routine tests leaves some residents in Ohio, Michigan and 15 other states unable to get groceries.
Associated Press
Oct 12, 2013

People in Ohio, Michigan and 15 other states found themselves unable to use their food stamp debit-style cards on Saturday, after a routine check by vendor Xerox Corp. resulted in a system failure.

The electronic benefits system experienced a temporary shutdown during a routine test of Xerox back-up systems, company spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer said Saturday.

"While the system is now up and running, beneficiaries in the 17 affected states continue to experience connectivity issues to access their benefits. Technical staff is addressing the issue and expect the system to be restored soon," Wasmer said in an emailed statement. "Beneficiaries requiring access to their benefits can work with their local retailers who can activate an emergency voucher system where available. We appreciate our clients' patience while we work through this outage as quickly as possible."

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe underscored that the outage is not related to the government shutdown.

Shoppers left carts of groceries behind at a packed Market Basket grocery store in Biddeford, Maine, because they couldn't get their benefits, said fellow shopper Barbara Colman, of Saco, Maine. The manager put up a sign saying the EBT system was not in use. Colman, who receives the benefits, called an 800 telephone line for the program and it said the system was down due to maintenance, she said.

"That's a problem. There's a lot of families who are not going to be able to feed children because the system is being maintenanced," Colman said. "No one should put maintenance in during the daytime."

She planned to reach out to local officials.

"I'm trying to reach out to everybody because I'm not thinking of me an adult who can figure out things. I'm thinking of the simpler person in the world who is sitting there trying to just do basic shopping to feed their kids. You don't want children going hungry tonight because of stupidity," she said.

Colman said the store manager promised her that he would honor the day's store flyer discounts next week.

Ohio's cash and food assistance card payment systems went down at 11 a.m., said Benjamin Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Ohio's cash system has been fixed, however he said that its electronic benefits transfer card system is still down. Johnson said Xerox is notifying retailers to revert to the manual system, meaning SNAP customers can spend up to $50 until the system is back online. SNAP recipients should call the 800 number on the back of their card, and Xerox will guide them through the purchase process.

Illinois residents began reporting problems with their cards — known as LINK in that state — on Saturday morning, said Januari Smith, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Smith said that typically when the cards aren't working retailers can call a backup phone number to find out how much money a customer has available in their account. But that information also was unavailable because of the outage, so customers weren't able to use their cards.

"It really is a bad situation but they are working to get it fixed as soon as possible," Smith said. "We hope it will be back up later today."

In Clarksdale, Miss. — one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest states in the nation — cashier Eliza Shook said dozens of customers at Corner Grocery had to put back groceries when the cards failed Saturday because they couldn't afford to pay for the food. After several hours, she put a sign on the front door to tell people about the problem.

"It's been terrible," Shook said in a phone interview. "It's just been some angry folks. That's what a lot of folks depend on."

Mississippi Department of Human Services director Rickey Berry confirmed that Xerox, the state's EBT vendor, had computer problems. He said he had been told by midafternoon that the problems were being fixed.

"I know there are a lot of mad people," Berry said.

Sheree Powell, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, started receiving calls around 11:30 a.m. about problems with the state's card systems. More than 600,000 Oklahomans receive SNAP benefits, and money is dispersed to the cards on the first, fifth and 10th days of every month, so the disruption came at what is typically a high-use time for the cards.

Oklahoma also runs a separate debit card system for other state benefits like unemployment payments. Those cards can be used at ATMs to withdraw cash. Powell said Xerox administers both the EBT and debit card systems, and they both were down initially.

Like Ohio's Johnson, Powell said that Oklahoma's cash debit card system has since been restored, but the EBT cards for the SNAP program were still down. Powell said Oklahoma's Xerox representative told them that the problems stemmed from a power failure at a data center, and power had been restored quickly.

"It just takes a while to reboot these systems," she said, adding that she did not know where the data center was located.

Powell said that some grocery store cashiers had been speculating that the federal government's shutdown caused the problem, but state officials have been assured that that is not the case.

"We are hopeful it will be up this afternoon but we were not given a specific time frame," she said.

David Akerly, a spokesman for Michigan's Department of Human Services, also confirmed that residents in his state have reported problems using their cards.

Comments

santown419

Your talking to a person who thinks if you have Perkins or numbers in your screen name you are stalking them. You can't argue with dumba$$es.

PyrkinsPyrate

When a person relies on SNAP to get food it demonstrates a lack of judgement and poor decision making. Usually it involves being common street trash and sleeping with irresponsible men who are either unwilling or incapable of providing for their offspring. So if a person is a big enough loser to need help buying food it would not be a bad idea for someone with better decision making skills to dictate what that person should be able to buy because they have already demonstrated they are irresponsible.

Informed

Not only is that not factual, it shows a great deal of judgment on your part. There are plenty of hardworking people that need a little extra help, as well as a lot of disabled and elderly people that rely on SNAP to help get them through the month.
You need to quit thinking the exceptions are the rule.

YoMamma

Lobster has nutritional value. So do t-bone, crab legs!

phroggy

OMG the entire city of Sandusky will starve!!!

yea right

hey i tell you what..i will go back to my job..i drove school bus.. and when i have another mass heart attack..like i already did and lost a big percentage of my heart.. i can crash the bus full of your kids..me i will be dead so i would not care..
just becarefull of what you wish for..

sugar

Makes me really give a rats butt if you eat at all.

Simple Enough II

Touchy aren't we?! Well if you can't work, do you have a garden?

Señor Clown

While your heart attack could have been attributed to smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, or other preventable factors, it also could have been caused in part by factors you couldn't control. It doesn't sound like you'd pass a CDL physical now, though, so how are you going to go back to driving a bus?

yea right

clown you are wrong on all accounts.. but then again are you "perfect"..i am sure not.. remember you might be there someday yourself..iv worked hard all my life including serving in the military for 6 yrs..your welcome..and now you want to treat me like crap..really..wow you are a narrowed minded person ..whom i feel sorry for.. including the rest of the narrowness on here..

Simple Enough II

Uh Yeah Right, I served also, Did you see combat? Were you the tip of the spear? We all weren't Audy Murphy or John Basilone, not everyone was a grunt (but if you hear the stories now 15 years later you would think that with all the BS stories)!

grandmasgirl

Yea Right: That is such a childish remark!!!

deertracker

It's from a clown! What did you expect?

Dwight K.

Not everyone on food stamps is a scum bag

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

This is true and unfortunate that the long term abusers overshadow those who need the program as a temporary safety net or to give longer aid to a disabled or destitute person. I also find it offensive that the USDA celebrates their statistics because those statistics are people.

InGodsArmy

I find it hard to believe that people will go hungry if their food stamp card isnt working for one day. I cant believe they are complaining about it. Be grateful it worked the other 29 days of the month; Geez!

Simple Enough II

+1

starryeyes83

Ironic this happened during the shutdown.

Massive system failure in Washington D.C. on ALL levels.

2cents

If you depend on someone else to feed you, then you should treat it like a blizzard and keep at least a week of food on hand for emergences.

Simple Enough II

+1

Darwin's choice

Wait until these people demand their "Obamacare"!!

The "setup" for system abuse is already in place.

kURTje

Heard SSI is approaching a similar scenario. Any facts on that?

starryeyes83

SSI or SSDI ? Or SS Retirement? Heard the same rumblings, Not sure if all three Involved or what.

Contango

Nah! The SSDI will NEVER go bankrupt.

The feds will just call "Bubble Ben" or "Gelan' Yellen" and have him/her print a few more greenbacks.

Or, the Chinese and the Japanese who already own over $1T in U.S. debt each, will just lend us a few hundred billion more.

http://www.treasury.gov/resource...

Not-to-worry, everything will be fine. :7

shucks

"Not-to-worry, everything will be fine. :7"

................Yep, the World Dictator will make everything just fine.

Kottage Kat

I am and just got mine cut from 18.00 to 15
00. I am frugal and many have far less. Please before you call me lazy, or tell me to get a job. I workedd 44 years. Spent my savings to live on while caring for my parents.
PLEASE not all who need help are to be called names.
THANK YOU

TrollingRageind...

You had 44 years to save up, I hope yours gets cut to 0.

Pterocarya frax...

That would be a good way to turn a solid republican over to democrat. And I hope you never need help.

Kottage Kat

I spent all my savings to live on while I took care of my parents. This not what I had planned, nor did I ask for sympathy from any or all
Just tired of being lumped with those who abuse the system
Being honest avoids Karma.
God Bless you sir or madam for your kindness and compassion

nonconformist

Kat, ignore Trolling. His name says it all!

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