EBT system failure causes headaches for store and beneficiaries

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - People who rely on food stamps were turned away by grocery stores across the country Saturday morning and into the afternoon hours. Officials said a computer glitch at Xerox, the company that processes payments for EBT cards, temporarily stopped people from using the cards in 17 states, including Mississippi.

By Saturday night, grocery stores in South Mississippi reported that EBT transactions are going through and things are returning to normal. But it was a different scene just a few hours before.

Calls flooded into Rouses grocery store in Gulfport after shoppers heard several grocery chains were unable to accept food stamps. Rouse's store manager Robert Strahan said he's never experienced the EBT system being down. And he said neither have his customers.

"Very surprised, and like I said, aggravated after that. Then some embarrassment also," Rouses store manager Robert Strahan said.

The EBT shoppers were embarrassed of having to leave a full cart of bagged groceries in the store. Employees spent part of their day going through those carts and restocking the shelves with the unpurchased items.

Those who depend on their EBT card were disappointed they weren't given earlier notice about the issue.

"I think they should warn the people when a crisis like this comes along," said food stamp beneficiary Corine Martin.

"I just get them because I'm homeless. I'll have to just bear with it without government assistance the best way possible," food stamp beneficiary Mickey Lynch said.

Signs were posted throughout the store to let customers know the EBT card service was out. As customers, who aren't on the food stamp program, saw the signs they worried for families who were unable to pay for their groceries.

"I have been in that situation and I feel very sorry for them," said shopper Diana Smith.

"That's kinda distressing. Because I know kids they want to eat. And you know you can't say, mommy's card's not working," shopper Syliva Parker said.

Rouses said they are taking EBT cards again. Xerox issued a statement saying the glitch was caused by a routine test of their backup systems Saturday morning. They said the issue has been fixed in all the affected states.

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