(UPDATE 10/15/2013) Saturday's outage may have been a dry run, if the memo from USDA is authentic. See my latest post.
Many, many Americans who depend on the program to buy necessary food for their families, have to shell out the money they don't have to purchase food right now.
Xerox, the vendor who runs the system, says it's a system failure. Department of Agriculture says it's not because of the government shutdown. Sure.
From KPCC, southern California public radio station (10/12/2013):
Food stamp debit cards not working in California and many other states
People in California, Ohio, Michigan and several other states found themselves unable to buy groceries with their food stamp debit-style cards on Saturday, after a routine check by vendor Xerox Corp. resulted in a system failure. A manager at Ralph's in Glendale confirmed to KPCC that their EBT system is down.
Xerox spokeswoman Karen Arena confirmed via email Saturday afternoon that some Electronic Benefits Transfer systems are experiencing temporary connectivity issues. She said technical staff is addressing the issue and expects the system to be restored soon. U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe underscored that the outage is not related to the government shutdown. Xerox runs EBT card systems for 17 states and all were affected by the outage.
...Johnson said Xerox is notifying retailers to revert to the manual system, meaning SNAP customers can spend up to $50 until the system is back online. SNAP recipients should call the 800 number on the back of their card, and Xerox will guide them through the purchase process.
Shoppers left carts of groceries behind at a packed Market Basket grocery store in Biddeford, Maine, because they couldn't get their benefits, said fellow 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.
"That's a problem. There's a lot of families who are not going to be able to feed children because the system is being maintenanced," Colman said. "No one should put maintenance in during the daytime."
She planned to reach out to local officials.
(Full article at the link)
Well, local retailers, as far as I checked, are NOT doing the manual entry at all, and they simply refuse the EBT card. There are customers who are shelling out the money they hardly afford to spend, in order to buy food.
The government official's assurance that it is not because of the government shutdown doesn't mean much to people who cannot buy food.
The toll-free customer service number is not working, and the website for the program is down.
A piece of advice that one of the local retailers was giving to the affected customers was to call Congressman of the area and complain. They seem to think it is because of the government shutdown.
Hitting the low-income people hardest - that's Obama's way anyway.