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If You Put Food on a Credit Card During EBT Outage, Ask to Switch Charges

 by Ruth Schneider   Posted on October 14 2013

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Millions of Americans experienced moments, if not hours, of panic after a computer glitch shut down the food stamp system in 17 states on Saturday.

The Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program, said the glitch was not a result of the national government shutdown.

"EBT cards in a number of states have temporarily stopped working (Saturday) due to a technical issue that the vendor that serves these states is experiencing," the Department of Agriculture said in a statement to an ABC news affiliate in Ohio. "This issue is not related to the government shutdown."

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

Stores across those states posted signs in windows notifying shoppers that the EBT system was rejecting cards.

Walmart employees in Louisiana were instructed to process purchases with no limits, which caused stores' shelves to be cleared.

"We did make the decision to continue to accept EBT cards during the outage so that they could get food for their families," Kayla Whaling, a Walmart representative told KSLA, a Louisiana-based CBS station.

While the glitch was corrected by late Saturday night, shoppers during the outage probably considered some hard decisions to cope.

In Santa Cruz, CA, a Target store representative said the store was willing to switch food purchases placed on high-interest credit card to the EBT system. The only thing needed to make the transaction possible was the original receipt.

How the glitch occurred

Xerox, the company most of us associate with photo copiers, is the company that actually runs and maintains the EBT food stamp program, which is used by one-third of US states.

The glitch began Saturday morning during what Xerox called "a routine test of our back-up systems."

The system was restarted and fully restored late Saturday evening. Xerox said "Beneficiaries who required immediate access to their benefits could work with their local merchants who could activate an emergency voucher process where available."

Unfortunately, many merchants were not aware of how to use the emergency voucher system, which allows purchases up to $50. Instead, shoppers were with EBT cards were turned away.

Xerox said they are working to ensure it does not happen again.

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