EBT shoppers face computer errors at the register

Shoppers in Lewiston and across Maine and 16 other states were unable to use their food stamp debit cards for hours on Saturday, after a routine test of systems by vendor Xerox Corp. resulted in a system failure.

In Lewiston, EBT shoppers at the Shaw's Supermarket were unable to buy groceries for about 30 minutes, Night Manager Randy Dail said.

At the city's Hannaford supermarket, systems were down for about two hours, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., said a worker at the grocery store.

Xerox was testing generator backups when it encountered a failure, causing a power outage at about 11 a.m. this morning, according to a release from Gov. Paul LePage's office. Although Xerox was able to bring back primary power, connectivity to the system in Maine and other states remained down, preventing the use of EBT cards.

“We are very sorry for any inconvenience this has caused,” said Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. “We have been in contact with the vendor who is working diligently to address the problem, and we expect it to be resolved shortly.”

Both the Hannaford and Shaw's systems were fully operating as of 7 p.m. Saturday.

Shoppers left carts of groceries behind at a packed Market Basket grocery store in Biddeford because they couldn't get their benefits, said shopper Barbara Colman of Saco. The manager at that store put up a sign saying the EBT system was not in use. Colman, who receives the benefits, called an 800 telephone line for the program and it said the system was down due to maintenance, she said.

"That's a problem. There are a lot of families who are not going to be able to feed children because the system is being maintenanced," Colman said. She planned to reach out to local officials. "You don't want children going hungry tonight because of stupidity," she said.

Colman said the store manager promised her that he would honor the day's store flier discounts next week.

Problems persisted through the afternoon, a Xerox spokeswoman said.

"While the electronic benefits system is now up and running, beneficiaries in the 17 affected states continue to experience connectivity issues to access their benefits. Technical staff is addressing the issue and expect the system to be restored soon," Xerox spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer said in an emailed statement. "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."

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe underscored that the outage was not related to the government shutdown.

Ohio's cash and food assistance card payment systems went down at 11 a.m., said Benjamin Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Ohio's cash system had been fixed, but he said that its electronic benefits transfer card system was still down. Johnson said Xerox is notifying retailers to revert to the manual system, meaning customers could spend up to $50 until the system was back online.

Illinois residents began reporting problems with their cards — known as LINK in that state — on Saturday morning, said Januari Smith, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Smith said that typically when the cards aren't working, retailers can call a backup phone number to find out how much money customers have available in their accounts. But that information also was unavailable because of the outage, so customers weren't able to use their cards.

"It really is a bad situation, but they are working to get it fixed as soon as possible," Smith said. "We hope it will be back up later today."

In Clarksdale, Miss. — one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest states in the nation — cashier Eliza Shook said dozens of customers at Corner Grocery had to put back groceries when the cards failed Saturday because they couldn't afford to pay for the food. After several hours, she put a sign on the front door to tell people about the problem.

"It's been terrible," Shook said in a phone interview. "It's just been some angry folks. That's what a lot of folks depend on."

Mississippi Department of Human Services Director Rickey Berry confirmed that Xerox, the state's EBT vendor, had computer problems. He said he had been told by mid-afternoon that the problems were being fixed.

"I know there are a lot of mad people," Berry said.

Sheree Powell, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, started receiving calls around 11:30 a.m. about problems with the state's card systems. More than 600,000 Oklahomans receive SNAP benefits, and money is dispersed to the cards on the first, fifth and 10th days of every month, so the disruption came at what is typically a high-use time for the cards.

Powell said some grocery store cashiers had been speculating that the federal government's shutdown caused the problem, but state officials have been assured that that is not the case.

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Eric  LeBlanc's picture

A burden compared to what

A burden compared to what? The billions spent every day to massacre villagers in a third world country most Americans couldn't find on a map? The welfare budget in America pales in comparison to the death and destruction budget. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Its a wonder our economy

Its a wonder our economy didn't crash with so many people dependent on the government for assistance these days. Walmart must have emptied out real fast.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Dennis, do you have a problem with EBT???

From reading you post, I get the feeling you feel people receiving assistance with groceries, are somehow a burden on you. Tell me something, if you found yourself totally without what you needed to take care of your family, or even yourself. No one will lend you money, you lose whatever income you had, and there is nothing left in the savings account.
In as little as one week you have lost the ability to do just about everything and you have nowhere to turn. You revert to the unemployment program. After all that's insurance your employer pays on your behalf, it's not welfare. Its also not nearly enough to get by on.
After the first week, the rent is coming due, along with the other bills. Which ones do you pay? It's either the rent or the other bills. Then the realization sinks in, even if you save every unemployment check for four weeks, you have just about half the rent. You still haven't dealt with the other bills from last month. Any day now the phone calls will start. the knocking on the door. At this point I suggest going out and purchasing some candles and oil lamps, cause your going to be in the dark before you know it.
I'll tell you this from experience, landlords don't like tenants living in their buildings with no electricity. Especially tenants who still owe them rent. If you own your own house, your still in trouble. No electricity, depending on where you live, means no running water. If you've ever experienced a power failure, you know what to expect when the man shuts off your power. also your heating system may be compromised.
This has all happened in the first three or four weeks of being without resources. It happens to people every day. without the help that is available out there, people and families are put in severe danger.
Can you honestly tell me, that if you found yourself in this situation tomorrow, you would never consider reaching out for help. You would suffer the consequences for as long as it takes. You would subject your family to the hardship of being poor. Just because you feel that those receiving assistance are a burden on society? I doubt it.
This could easily happen to you on Tuesday of this coming week. With absolutely no warning. In just a few weeks you are in deep doo-doo. It's a condition that's very non discriminant. It hits anyone anywhere. In extreme cases such as mine, it's permanent. You have no idea how it feels having all the bill's due, the mortgage company sending you six notices a day, your house is running off a generator you can't even afford the gas for, and the doctor says you are never going to get better. You will however continue to get worse.
It's times like this that make a man, or woman for that matter, feel very vulnerable. Now, not only do you realize you need help, the feeling is overwhelming.
If you had planned ahead, this catastrophe may not be to bad. If you purchased disability insurance, your half way there. sometimes people need a little help getting on their feet after suffering this type of emergency, they can receive rental assistance heating assistance, and food benefits.
The point I'm making is, everyone needs help in one way or another in life. Don't be trash talking those receiving help now. because that person could very well be YOU next Tuesday, I know, I've been there.......................

I'm 58 years old, I've worked

I'm 58 years old, I've worked steady since I was 16 yrs old. I think they should go back to government surplus food for the poor. I remember way back when there was more of a incentive to go back to work. These days people whip out those ebt cards like a American Express card. Now you can go get a pizza with one. Government dependency is a form of slavery.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Why the suffering????????????

Why is it, that if your poor, it's automatically assumed your not doing enough to get by. I will admit, there are those who abuse the system out there. Those people are the exception. There are those who really need assistance for an array of reasons. Why should these people, no different than you and I, be relegated to surplus food. When I was 47, I went from damn near six figures down to Social Security. In less than a month. It wasn't my fault and I had no warning. It's permanent and nothing will ever change that. I'm lucky, I had provisions in place, and I don't need assistance such as EBT, but I very well could have. Are you saying I deserve nothing better than surplus food? I'm sure my good friend and supporter Bob, will say yes, surplus food, and soup kitchens only.
All I'm saying is you can't generalize the problem, you can't group everyone good and bad in the same argument. Replacing EBT cards with surplus food or a similar program will punish not only the criminals cheating the system, but real people guilty of nothing more than being on the wrong side of luck. Sometimes as in my case, going back to work is not an option, Cracking down on everyone receiving food assistance, just to punish the few, is akin to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There are solutions out there, just make sure we don't punish the wrong people............................

Bob White's picture


You could do like I did when that happen to me go get a job. I know Frank you will say its not that easy the economy blah blah. See Frank we have had this conversation before what your about to say are excuses which I wont buy into. I took a job that I didn't like but guess what, it kept the doom and gloom away on the most part. Sure we had to make big changes in life but life is a roller coaster. I wish I had planned for what had happen but I didn't. I have learned and if this should happen again I will be better prepared. See Frank I'm not saying there aren't people out there that don't need help but why should the first thought that comes to mind is who is going to help me? Frank your first thought should be, how are you going to take care of yourself if something like you described should happen to me? What is my plan? How am I going to take care of things? Did I have a plan not really other then I knew there was no other choices but to get a job no matter what it was how little it paid. If I couldn't make ends meet with one job well that would mean I would get 2-3 or however many I needed. I know Frank your going to disagree with my theory but it works trust me I know other people that this happened to and it worked for them as well.

FRANK EARLEY's picture


Bob, I really feel you need to be medicated...................

Bob White's picture


So I can be like you? Maybe you should get off your meds and see things clearly. Then maybe you will stop with the excuses and the pit me routine.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I rest my case.................

Nuff Said....................................

DAVE GUDAS's picture

Yes it is a burden

Burden? Well yes. Every dollar spent supporting others who cannot (or many cases WILL NOT) support themselves, does constitute a burden to anyone paying taxes. Who do you think is paying their share?
Of course the situations you describe is what welfare is meant for, but unfortunately cases like you've described seem to be more of the exception these days than the rule. Exploitation of the system is out there, people see it, and where it's in everyone's face... it's a little frustrating. We have a very broken and overly abused system that rewards and perpetuates poor choices and dependency.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

You need to stop including...............

You need to stop including all the ones who screw the system, they are criminals taking advantage of the target. Much the same as not blaming the banking system because people keep robbing the banks. they are after money where ever it's available.
You also need to educate yourself on just how many people actually need these programs on many different levels. Yes, my scenario was extreme, but it does happen that way, to a lot more than you would believe. There are lesser degrees of disabilities that can and are just as debilitating.
You will never fully realize just how many people will fall victim to disease until it actually happens to you. That is something I try to promote. The need to prepare yourself, to plan ahead and hopefully lessen you impact on the system, there are things you can do.
I think you got it a little wrong, unfortunately it's the rule, not the exception. I planned, I took all the right steps, I never once ever expected to need it, no one in my family has ever been disabled. After retiring from trucking, I even went back to school for one more degree in order to qualify myself for my new position. Not only did I go back to school, I took a accelerated degree program. That means I went to school year round. I also paid for all this myself. No student loans.
These aren't the actions of a 44 year old expecting to be physically disabled the rest of his life. When your making tons of money, it's easy to dismiss this as something that happens to someone else. It's not until you hear those four fateful words for the first time, "there is no cure", then it hit's you. Now you realize this can, and does happen to anyone, now you realize maybe now I'm a burden on the system. Kinda scary stuff.

DAVE GUDAS's picture

Hey Frank...

While trying to get educated I cam across this... http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/2736259156001/are-people-taking-advantage...

FRANK EARLEY's picture

David, keep educating yourself, and avoid Bob's wisdom.....

I hate to indicate that anything Bob says might be true, but, I struggled to watch that whole video. Those people turned helping the needy, into a comedy skit. Were you able to see exactly what it was they were trying to accomplish? Actually I think a better question would be, just who are they trying to help with that particular segment? You might think they are trying to bring the waste and fraud that's found in the system, to the attention of the people. Maybe they were just pointing out that abuse of the system is generally accepted as business as usual.
The simple answer to the question is, they are trying to scandalize the Democratic Party in order to get just a few more jabs in on President Obama. They could care less about the abuse of the system, they don't care about the fraud, they don't care about less fortunate people in general. All they want is that precious attack on the Left.
Unfortunately we live in a world where the poor, the elderly, anyone who fails to meet certain standards set forth by society, become nothing more than pawns in this bigger game called Politics. Right here in Maine, we have the poster child of Right Wing, Tea Party influenced neglect of the poor and needy, in the form of our own Governor, Paul LePage.
Oh, no, I'm starting to sound like one of them establishment type hippies, protesting to criticize corporate CEO's or something. Actually I'm someone speaking on the side of the poor and underprivileged.
I am totally aware, even more aware than some, of the fraud and abuse that goes on in the welfare system. I feel it's because welfare is even more tempting to thieves than say, a bank or convenience store. It's easy money to them, and nothing to do with the being poor. Which is why I don't deal with that aspect of welfare, and why I despise political groups or anyone putting everyone into one big group of welfare recipients, those who really need it, along with the frauds and cheats. The divide is nowhere close to even fifty fifty. Organizations like FOX News, like to use the numbers of legitimate welfare recipients, along with the frauds and cheats, to capitalize on their goal of attacking the Obama administration. It's all a game to them, nothing more.
I have gone through the humiliation of losing everything, of getting blindsided with no warning. To having a very good job, a nice home, everything I wanted in life, and in a matter of four weeks it was all gone, all because of something to small to be seen with the naked eye. It's hard enough trying to claw your way back from nothing at all, let alone doing it while incurably sick. Because of some luck, and a bit of planning for an emergency I made it through intact, a lot of people don't. That's why I enjoy helping people through the process.
I'm telling you all this because if you listen to Bob, you might think I'm a flaming lunatic, who enjoys a free handout, as apposed to working for a living. I've been going around and around for a week now with Bob. He refuses to believe that someone can be disabled to the point of not being able to work, therefore I'm a lay-about, with my hand out. It's folks like him that drive me to continue my crusade and stick up for the legitimately disabled, poor, elderly or for that matter, anyone down on their luck. Hey everyone needs a hobby.

Bob White's picture

Holy Smokes Davaid

You cant listen to Fox those guys are evil and they just lie. At least that is what they will try to tell you. Don't try to reason with Frank I'm sure he's a decent guy But he and his people are King of excuses. These people are so bound and determined to prove that everybody needs some kind of help and if something bad has happen to you and you didn't become a number well then... you don't know what your talking about. I don't know when it became bad to tell someone you need to get off your ass and work harder. Yes I need to say there are some people that need help once and a while that is why we have it but it has become a way of life. If you read the KJ there is a story of a man that needed help and he got help maybe he could have gotten more not sure but I would have been all for it. I ask this one simple question people bust there hump to scratch buy they ask for help they get told NO but the person sitting there just collecting because they can they get asked what more can we do for you? See David that happens in my world but it doesn't seem to happen in there world. You know when your getting to the point that they cant defend what your saying they will turn to distractions like commenting on your spelling or go to the you only listen to Fox line. The President is kind of like that good at making distractions.


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