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

thinkagain

I’m certainly not advocating we do away with helping the truly needy like yourself Kat. One of my hearts burdens is the plight of the homeless and I am active in their support with my time and my money. May God bless you for taking care of your parents. 1 Timothy 5:8

Informed

But wait, you just said earlier that people should not be helped. Now you change your tune. You help the homeless, but not other people with children who will otherwise go hungry? You help the homeless, even though it might be their own fault that they are in that predicament, but not those same people if they had housing and SNAP? That makes absolutely no sense.

thinkagain

Your kind is not interested in discussion or debate. You are content to make un-Informed assumptions and put words in other people’s mouths. This is why I seldom respond to liberal trolls.

Of course, you really don’t care if I respond or not, it’s obvious you enjoy one-sided conversation.

The Big Dog's back

Just pointing out your hypocrisy.

santown419

Come on man you have to be kidding you and your buddies come on here on negative bs and now you want to have a heart.

Informed

I am not making any kind of assumptions, not putting words in anyone's mouth. Just pointing out your conflicting statements and hypocrisy.
Explain how helping the homeless is different from helping people in a similar situation who happen to have a roof over their head and a SNAP card?
Also, please explain how it's okay to care more about a one-month old embryo than a one-year-old child? After all, you want all abortion to stop, but you don't want to help feed children that are already here.

thinkagain

There is nothing to explain, for you are still putting words in my mouth. Your continual assumptions and straw man arguments only prove one thing. You do not have the ability to carry on a rational conversation.

Informed

What words did I put in your mouth? And what am I assuming? Please, do tell.

Nemesis

"Explain how helping the homeless is different from helping people in a similar situation who happen to have a roof over their head and a SNAP card?"

Simple - one may VOLUNTARILY make efforts and contributions toward what one sees as effective private programs to help the homeless, or anyone else in need without there being any conflict with objections to being FORCED to support programs such as SNAP which one does not see as effective. If I discover that the local food bank is giving out Doritos and Mountain Dew, or steak and lobster, I can stop contributing, thus providing an incentive for them to do what it takes to make sure they provide sensible, nutritious food in the most efficient manner possible. Even though SNAP has been documented to provide Doritos, Mountain Dew, steak, and lobster, it faces no prospect of people ceasing contributions, because if they do so, men with guns come to take them to jail.

You complain about lumping the people who need temporary help in with the abusers and the generationally dependent. That's a consequence of government assistance programs being devoid of any requirement for behavioral change from recipients, in marked contrast to private charities that have to demonstrate effectiveness in order to get people to donate.

You leftists are fond of chanting "government is a word for things we do together," but it's really a word for things we are FORCED to do together. The private sector, both corporate and charitable, is a word for things we do together VOLUNTARILY.

santown419

You do make us true Christians look bad.

red white and blue

Thinkagain you are right on point!

santown419

Its not only the food stamps that is effected it is also the child support accounts

akmed

people should not have to pay taxes as long as the Goverment is shut down.

2cents

But they are applying the difference toward the deficit, LOL NOT!

SaraMac

Ha! We all wish!

4shizzle

@akmed

Isn't that the source of this problem ?

People dodging paying their taxes ?

grumpy

Who are you saying is not paying the taxes the law says they are required to pay? Or do you think YOU are the arbitrator of who should pay what, instead of the people who were elected?

4shizzle

mR. bUMPY

Why did all the jobs go to other countries ?

Cheap labor and to avoid paying taxes.

"Or do you think YOU are the arbitrator of who should pay what, instead of the people who were elected?"

...You like government ONLY when the elected officials give tax breaks for the rich.

Contango

But a foretaste of that inevitable day when the fiscal, financial and monetary train wreck occurs and the SNAP cards come back "stamped" NSF (non-sufficient funds).

The moronic Progressives think that there is 'somehow' an endless supply of money and this country can borrow, print, tax and spend its way to prosperity.

From the brain-dead cheerleading mascot of the Progressives, Nancy Pelosi:

"It is the biggest bang for the buck when you do food stamps and unemployment insurance — the biggest bang for the buck,"

http://www.politico.com/news/sto...

The Big Dog's back

The moron CONservatives/Libertarians got the debt train rolling. Now they claim to know how to get us back on track? ROFLMAO!

Contango

Re: "the debt train rolling."

And the tax, print, borrow and spend Dems have been better huh?

Better check debt-to-GDP ratios, while remembering which political party has controlled Congress for much of the last 80 yrs.

http://www.macrotrends.net/1381/...

sorryhog

I worked for over 20 years, was off work, somebody told me to sign up for assistance, guess what? They told me I had a house and a car, so I wasn't eligible. Also to move and find a job.
So get a JOB and support your family!

meowmix

Nice lie you typed out there sorryhog. A house and a car is not counted towards your eligibilty towards food stamps. You can also have thousands of dollars in an IRA/401K account that doesn't matter. Pray tell, where did you go to apply that you were told this?

called out

They say if you can't feed them don't breed them... and I believe if you are on assistance and you get pregnant while on them you should be denied any assistance for that child..

on the other hand I believe if you truly can not work or are elderly there is no problem with helping you out.. and when i say can't work I don't mean i'm FAT or Lazy.. like wahhh I stubbed my toy and can't work.

The Big Dog's back

Tell that to your trailer trash Repub base.

Dr. Information

The new America....watch please. It will shock you.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=...

starryeyes83

.

starryeyes83

I watched it And I'm so NOT surprised. There are many vids like that.

This is why we need forced sterilization! These kind of people breed like rats. Or send them back to their ancestral land or wherever.

15 kids pffft. disgusting.

P. S.

Should have said 16 because she was arrested last year and gave birth to her 16th in June of '12

santown419

You are like so have to be kidding dude.

starryeyes83

@ Santown,

No, chicky,

I'm not kidding it's on youtube the same station did a followup on her.

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