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.


The Big Dog's back

The Dems aren't trying to screw someone else, so not biased at all.


Re: "The Dems aren't trying to screw someone else,"

Which is why 7 of the 10 richest on Capital Hill are Dems. LMAO!!!


Contago, never try to argue with a lefty with the facts. They wouldn't know a fact if it bit them in the nose. Know when a liberal is lying? Whenever their lips are moving!!


This country is failing. Failed leadership and failed ethics amongst Americans. So many want something for nothing. To many takers who don't contribute.

thinkagain's picture

Tell me again how no one is taking advantage of the taxpayer funded program!

“glitches cause welfare benefits frenzy”

Problems involving Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, plagued at least 17 states Saturday and Sunday, creating retail riots. At Louisiana stores in Springhill and Mansfield, cards registered no spending limits, prompting recipients to go on buying binges.

Customers said shelves were picked clean in a mob scene that left employees rattled.

But when order was restored and the cards began reading properly, it became clear that some customers were out to take advantage of the taxpayer-funded program. One woman had $700 worth of merchandise in her cart and an EBT card with a balance of just 49 cents.

I can’t wait to hear all the liberals spin this…


Of course there are the few who will take advantage. Duh. Then again, look at the "spin" the media has placed on those few.


If that happened that is wrong. Yet Michelle Bachmann wants her f. subsidies. Please pay...

Simple Enough II

It was just a test, they wanted to see how their subejects...I mean their voters would react........


I read these posts and I see things like aren't you a Christian and old folks deserve to eat. Your intent is good and I agree with you, however, we fail to look deeper and see the cause. Our economy has taken a nose dive over the years because of over-regulation by the government, lobbyist dollars on capital hill, career politicians, growing government and an adversarial view of big business. Let's face it, sometimes we have to turn our head away from the grueling grind of big business and except that to stay competitive, we have to understand that business leaders need latitude to act, besides, their growth creates jobs and money for us citizens. Until you face these facts, you will continue to post blogs from a victim standpoint and never take care of the real issue....our government interference!


Don't forget about all those retirees who lost all of their savings in Bernie Maddoff (sp) type schemes. Enron, MCI, etc. stole all those people's retirement investments, leaving them with nothing.


Good examples !!! but the dumb Repubs don't want to hear it.


What interests me most about simplistic responses such as yours, is that you are quick to point out a few of the thousands of CEOs from our history and use the same brush to paint them all. I'll bet a dollar to a donut that you would vehemently argue the same paint process with regard to racial relations. Let me make this simpler for your malnourished cerebral body. Hypothetically speaking, of course, if you had an African-American who committed a violent crime in Sandusky's categorically defined high-crime area, would you then assume that all blacks are violent? Guessing how you maintain the party script that routinely contradicts itself, my guess is that you would never make such a statement. With that said, you made my point that you are ill informed and have comprehension issues in most parts of your life. I'd also guess that you will follow your savior Obama until you yourself are living like a refugee; no pun intended for our classic rock fans. I truly wish you the best of luck as you continue the chant of O-Bam-a that was so popular until Obama got what he wanted. Please avoid posting here or anywhere else as I'm certain your fellow democrats will endure continued embarrassment more than they have already.


Re: "Bernie Madoff"

Big Democrat party donor.


Simple Enough II


Ned Mandingo

It's free, swipe your EBT.

Ned Mandingo

It has been abused for years and it is nice to see it down. Do what I do, provide for yourself.

Ned Mandingo

I am offering to personally give any people affected by this free beans and rice to survive on. That is all these cards should be able to purchase anyway.


Re: "beans and rice"

A good protein substitute for meat.

A few dashes of hot sauce and you're good to go!


Not enough nutritional value there. No Vit C, for example.

Dr. Information

Didnt stop the animals from ripping off stores where the purchased items were not being deducted from the cards balance. Happened all over the other day. Some lady had $700 dollars in merchandise in her cart with a .49 cent balance on her EBT card. Thankfully the glitch was fixed and she was forced to return items.

Stinking savages.


Cryin shame the sales of Kools and Colt 45 will suffer until they are turned back on.


I would be annoyed if my weekly paycheck were late, but I actually WORK for it. It amazes me how rude these "people" are in grocery stores at the first of the month, with 6 hood rats trailing along behind them, literally, trashing the store. I sure would be happy as a lark if I were getting cartloads of high dollar food for nothing. Actually, I would be happier eating a lark.


Hey Shizzle, still waiting for you to cite the Bible verse where Jesus said to go and FORCIBLY take other people's money to help the poor.


I just stumbled upon this.

YOU cite the Bible verse where Jesus said to go and FORCIBLY take other people's money to help the poor.


That's on you - you're the one who claimed opposition to SNAP was un-Christian.

thinkagain's picture

The liberal cult clearly hates the Bible as much as it hates the Constitution, and has learned to be a master of distorting both of them.

According to the liberals’ Queen James Bible, God actively promotes abortion, enforced economic equality is mandated and Jesus Christ had homosexual inclinations.


That sort of jingoistic gibberish adds nothing to the discussion. Now back to the topic - well, shizzle (or informed?) Nothing?

thinkagain's picture

Sorry, didn’t know I had to pass your litmus test to state my opinion. Carry on with your one-sided “discussion”, the one where you plead for a scripture that doesn’t exist and you are being ignored. Good luck!


Your little sound bite from some salivating talk radio personality added nothing and was irrelevant to the topic or the point to which you responded. All you're doing is reinforcing every negative stereotype of conservatives that Shizzle wants to spout.

Dr. Information

American. Where the cooperate tax rate is higher than anywhere else. Where being wealthy is a crime. Where idiots do not realize that the wealthy are keeping this country on the life support that it is on (federal tax dollars collected). Where the rich donate and give more to the poor than any other social class. Where we spend more than we take in, year after year. Where laziness is now the norm and someone else is to blame.


Speak for yourself Aaron. Hard work never hurt anyone. WE deserve a flat tax for all.

Dr. Information

Haha. You must have me confused el kurto. I know who you speak of but believe me, not him. For what its worth, that was the gist of my post. Hard work, working to make yourself better off and not being lazy. Guess you missed that.


I have absolutely no problem helping the poor. But I have a big problem with supporting the lazy. Big difference.