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Glitch shuts down EBT system in several states

Posted at 4:40 PM, Oct 12, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-13 13:45:00-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Shoppers around the country, including here in Virginia, could not purchase food using their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards because of a computer problem Saturday.

EBT cards are similar to a debit card given to citizens by state welfare departments to pay for food stamp and cash assistance benefits.

"I hate it because I can't get the special stuff that I need," said Samantha Dupree, who has an EBT card.

Along with customers, employees said they were also experiencing frustrations.

"It kept hesitating. It just said hold, line on hold," said Belle Apodaca, who owns Oriental Food Store and Gift Shop in Richmond.

Apodaca told CBS 6 News she was working to help some of her customers affected, like giving them IOU's on some purchases.

USDA spokesperson Sheila Jaskot released a statement saying, "EBT cards in an number of states have temporarily stopped working today due to a technical issue that the vendor that serves these states is experiencing.

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."

CBS 6 also reached out to Xerox spokesperson Karen Arena, who released a statement on the power outage. "During a routine test of our back-up systems Saturday morning, Xerox’s Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system experienced a temporary shutdown. While the system is now up and running, beneficiaries in the 17 affected states continue to experience connectivity issues to access their benefits. This disruption impacts EBT beneficiaries who rely on the system for SNAP and WIC.

Technical staff is addressing the issue and expect the system to be restored soon. 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."

The CBS 6 newsroom received numerous calls, emails and messages on social media about the problem. The station was also told shoppers cannot access their accounts on the EBT website.