No Food For You: EBT System Shutdown In 17 States Due To Updates

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

At about 9 a.m. Saturday, reports from across the country began pouring in that customers’ EBT cards were not working in stores.

At 2 p.m., an EBT customer service representative told CBS Boston that the system was currently down for a computer system upgrade.

Xerox spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer released further details later in the afternoon in an emailed statement.

“While the electronic benefits 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. “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.”

Wasmer said the affected states also included Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said 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 EBT system was down due to maintenance, she said.

“That’s a problem. There are a lot of families who are not going to be able to feed children because the system is being maintenanced,” Colman said. She planned to reach out to local officials. “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, but 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 customers can spend up to $50 until the system is back online.

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