Food stamp recipients in 17 states were unable to use their debit-style cards Saturday
because of a system failure in the Xerox Corp. backup systems.
Nobody could find out why through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website
which is unavailable because of the government shutdown.
Agriculture Department spokeswoman Courtney Rowe denied the outage was related to the government shutdown, and the system was back up and running by Saturday night
, WBZ-TV in Boston reports.
Reports started coming in at about 9 a.m. that across the country, customers' EBT cards weren't working. Around 2 p.m., an EBT card customer service representative told WBZ
that the system was down because of a computer system upgrade.
In some places, retailers could activate an emergency voucher system, but in many others, stores would not accept the cards as payments.
The EBT cards are used in many states instead of the older-style paper tickets, with state offices putting money on them that recipients can spend for food. The cards run through a scanner much like a bank debit card.
Affected states were Ohio, Michigan, Maine, Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
Federal officials have said money for welfare programs such as SNAP, commonly referred to as food stamps, and WIC should remain available until at least the end of this month. States run their own versions of the programs, receiving funding and guidelines from the federal government.
"Restarting the EBT system required time to ensure service was back at full functionality," Xerox spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer said.
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