LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Xerox Corp says that access to food stamp systems has been restored in 17 states that were affected by a temporary outage.
Xerox Spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer said it took time to restore the system to make sure it was fully functional.
The multi-state system outage affected 17 states, including Louisiana. It all started around 11 a.m. Saturday. SNAP card holders were unable to purchase food because of the outage.
According to a state agency director in Oklahoma, the problems were due to a system failure at a XEROX facility, which is a vendor EBT services in many states.
Earlier in the day Wasmer issued the following statement:
"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."
Xerox notified retailers to go to the manual system, meaning SNAP customers can spend up to $50 until the system was back online. SNAP recipients should call the 800 number on the back of the card, and Xerox will guide them through the purchase process.
Lindsey DeBlieux, Spokesperson with the Department of Children and Family Services issued the following statement.
"The company that maintains SNAP EBT card services for the state of Louisiana is currently experiencing multi-state service problems. Retail SNAP transactions are impacted, but the company is working quickly to restore service. This issue is temporary and not related to the federal government shutdown."
A statement from a USDA Spokesperson also reiterated that the problem is not related to the government shutdown:
"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. 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."
SNAP is a government assistance program to help low-income households pay for food. SNAP used to be called the Food Stamp program. The amount of SNAP food stamps a household receives is determined by a household's size, income, and expenses.
Grocery stores in Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Georgia, and several other states reported problems Saturday.
Market Basket on Nelson Road said they saw problems with the EBT system not too long after doors opened. Manager Victoria Leger said her first EBT transaction was at around 6:30 a.m.
"It just kept saying not authorized," said Leger. "So we had one of our other employee that did have a food stamp card thinking that maybe it was the customer's card. The employee's did the same thing."
The outage caused Market Basket employees to put back carts full of groceries and ultimately lose sales. Manager James Williams says the issue left many Market Basket customers empty-handed. He says they did their best to accommodate.
"It's been upsetting a lot of people," said Williams. "People are coming in and finding out that they can't use their EBT cards."
Audrey Kelley, a Market Basket customer, was worried the issue was not going to get fixed.
"You need to food to survive," said Kelley. "What are you we going to do?"
Kelley said several members of her family use SNAP food stamps.
Again, Xerox officials say beneficiary access to programs such as SNAP, TANF, and other programs has been restored to the 17 States where Xerox provides EBT service.
Xerox officials go on to say we appreciate our clients' patience while we resolved this issue and apologize for any inconvenience. We realize that access to these benefits is important to families in the states we serve. We continue to investigate the cause of the issue so we can take steps to ensure a similar interruption does not re-occur.