EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

October 14, 2013

Xerox says access restored to food stamp users

Food stamp recipients should be able to use their debit-style cards in grocery stores on Sunday, now that vendor Xerox Corp. has restored service after a system outage that affected people across 17 states.

People from Alabama to California found themselves temporarily unable to use their food stamp cards on Saturday morning, after a routine test of backup systems by Xerox sparked technical problems that shut down the states’ electronic benefit transfer, or EBT, systems. Xerox said late in the evening that access was restored for all users.

“Restarting the EBT system required time to ensure service was back at full functionality,” spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer said in an email. An emergency voucher process was available in some of the areas while the problems were occurring, she said.

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

Shoppers left carts of groceries behind at a packed Market Basket grocery store in Biddeford, Maine, on Saturday because they couldn’t get their benefits, said shopper Barbara Colman, of Saco, Maine. The manager 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.

States affected by the temporary outage included Ohio, Michigan, Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.

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. Johnson said Xerox asked retailers to revert to a manual system, meaning customers could spend up to $50 until the system was restored.

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.

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