Written by Michael Crowe, Multimedia Journalist - email
ALLISON (KWWL) -
When Tabitha Buss's EBT card wouldn't scan on Saturday, a lot of questions ran through her head.
"Are we ever going to get food stamps back on?" she said. "Are they shut down for good? Because the government shutdown, and we thought that's why the EBT quit working."
But it wasn't the government's fault that cards weren't working. Nicholas Frink, who works at the J&C grocery store in Alison, wasn't happy about the system error either.
"It was saying no host," he said. "And it was declining the cards and wasn't letting anything go through."
Frink said he sees about 60 people using EBT a day -- but Saturday, for 10 hours, no one could.
Officials said it was a system error.
Xerox, which operates the system, said a routine test of backup systems caused a technical glitch and outage.
"We realize that this caused inconvenience for food benefit recipients, as well as retailers and we're continuing to reach out to make sure that everyone fully understands the emergency voucher system and that it does not financially impact the retailers," said Amy Lorentzen McCoy at the Iowa Department of Human Service (DHS).
If cards aren't working, the DHS said the emergency plan is for people to get vouchers, without the store having to verify the funds on the card. But, many Iowa retailers didn't know about these vouchers, and couldn't find phone numbers to call for support.
So some customers, unable to pay for their groceries, had to walk out empty handed.
"I had to put the stuff back," said Dale Wigland, who was denied Saturday. "I had to put the groceries back."
This has left some feeling nervous about the program.
"I have not yet used my foodstamps card since it's been turned back on," said Buss. "Since I'm kind of scared that if I go back down there and swipe it, after getting a basket of groceries, that it's going to be declined."
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