Food Stamps Glitch Not Caused by ShutdownBy: Erika Watts - October 12, 2013
People who receive food stamps were in for a shock today when they tried to pay for their groceries. A glitch in the national EBT system halted payments on Saturday, which meant people across 17 states had no money to pay for groceries.
The error scared many people, as they thought this was the end of their food stamp benefits until the government shutdown is over.
“When we went to go use them today after 12 o’clock–no food stamps,” said Lakendra Washington, a Maryland resident. Washington said her sister called to let her know about the issue after having to leave her groceries at the checkout counter. “She was like, ‘I went to CVS and the machines were down there, went to 7-11 and machines were down there.’”
“So we decided to call the card, and it says that you can’t get your balance,” Washington said. “You can’t do anything until further notice. We have four children that live in our home. It’s us two adults and there’s only one income right now, and food is expensive.”
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Washington and her sister were just two of many customers who had to leave their groceries at the register today. Corner Grocery cashier Eliza Shook described the situation as being “terrible.” Shook said that dozens of people had to put back their groceries. “It’s just been some angry folks. That’s what a lot of folks depend on,” Shook said.
Despite initial assumptions that food stamp benefits had been cut off because of the government shutdown, the USDA says this isn’t the case.
“EBT cards in a number of states have temporarily stopped working today due to a technical issue that the vendor that serves these states is experiencing,” a USDA spokesperson said. “The vendor is working to fix this issue and EBT cards will work again once it is resolved. This issue is not related to the government shutdown.” Funding for food stamps should be available for at least a year, if the shutdown lasts that long.
While this doesn’t immediately help the families who didn’t have the means to pay for their groceries today, their benefits should be restored soon. A timeframe hasn’t been given for when EBT users can expect for their funds to be available on their cards, but the computer glitch has been corrected.
“We realize that access to these benefits is important to families in the states we serve,” said the spokesperson for Xerox, the company responsible for maintaining the system that experienced the glitch. “We continue to investigate the cause of the issue so we can take steps to ensure a similar interruption does not re-occur,” Jennifer Wasmer said.