People in 17 states including Ohio, Michigan could not use their food stamp debit-style cards Saturday due to a system failure at the Xerox Corp, the vendor that processes the payments of the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman assured users that the outage was not due to the government shutdown.
While Xerox announced late evening that the fault had been repaired and that the system was up and running, some people continued to encounter connectivity problems.
“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,” Xerox spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer wrote in an e-mail.
Carts, full of groceries and other stuff, were seen lying at various stores as potential shoppers had left them behind after they could not avail the EBT benefits.
There was no dearth of irate customers who said that their family would have to sleep without food due to the technical fault.
While the system was down, Xerox notified Ohio retailers to use the manual system, thereby allowing customers to spend up to $50 on the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP).
Illinois residents started facing problems with the card, known as LINK in the state, right from Saturday morning. Retailers normally call a backup number to know the exact credit balance in a customer’s account, however, due to the outage the requisite information was not available telephonically also.
“It’s been terrible. It’s just been some angry folks. That’s what a lot of folks depend on,” said a retailer.
The usage of EBT cards is typically high during this time of the month because these cards are charged on the first, fifth and 10th days of every month.
Earlier Zerox had acknowledged, “During a routine test of our back-up systems Saturday morning, Xerox’s…EBT system experienced a temporary shutdown.”
One of the shoppers said that the testing done by Xerox was ill-timed. Such testing should be done at the end of the month as by that time, people have exhausted their debit allotment, averred the customer.