SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - WLOX is being flooded with phone calls from people who say their food stamps are being declined at various stores across South Mississippi. After making some phone calls we were able to confirm EBT cards are not being accepted, however, we are still trying to determine the cause.
One caller told WLOX News she is an EBT card holder. She called the EBT retailer assistance number and the operator told her the Mississippi system is resetting statewide making some cards invalid for a few hours. She said she was told the problem should be fixed by this afternoon.
Alice Douglas who is the store manager at Jerry Lee's in Gautier said the transactions are not going through anywhere in the state. She said customers are being declined at Jerry Lee's, Wayne Lee's, all dollar stores, convenience stores, and Rouse's. Customers using EBT cards at Quality Poultry and Seafood are also being denied.
WLOX has also received complaints from people who could not check out at Walmart and Sam's Club and had to put their groceries back.
Douglas said she has tried to contact technical support for the EBT program, but has been unable to get through.
"We don't understand why we have this problem," said Douglas. "It wasn't a problem yesterday. People are asking if it's part of the shutdown. We don't know."
Today, Congressman Bennie Thompson released the following statement on reports of SNAP rejections at local businesses due to a vendor processing:
"This morning, I received reports that Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards have been rejected in Bolivar, Coahoma and Washington Counties. I am also informed that this problem has been caused by a vendor responsible for processing payments and not a result of the federal government shutdown. Meanwhile, I have alerted the relevant agencies, including USDA and OMB, and will continue to convey relevant information to keep constituents informed. I will also be contacting the state Department of Human Services to learn how they plan to address the issue. I am committed to alleviating this problem and am working to ensure Mississippians are protected."
Casey Street of Palazzo's office told me he was told by USDA all the EBT cards are refreshing and should work again in a matter of hours. Not shutdown related.
USDA's guidance on shutdown shows SNAP benefits should be paid for October. http://www.usda.gov/documents/usda-fns-shutdown-plan.pdf.