Posted onOctober 26, 2013
Low-income people across Michigan were unable to use their Bridge Cards on Saturday because of a glitch in the food stamp system that affected states nationwide.
The disruption apparently was caused by a failure in the federal Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program, which is operated by vendor Xerox in the affected 17states, said David Akerly, spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Human Services.
Xerox announced on its website late Saturday night that it had fixed the problem in every state.
About 1.75 million people in Michigan receive food assistance through the program, Akerly said.
The outage caused problems across metro Detroit as customers found out at checkout lines that they couldn’t buy their groceries — and retailers were left with lower sales for the day. By day’s end, some retailers had posted signs on their doors alerting customers.
“That is inconveniencing a whole lot of people, especially people who have a lot of little kids who are going to be hungry,” said Rhonda Streeter, 50, of Detroit after trying her Bridge Card at several grocery stores in the city without luck.
Xerox spokesman Kevin Lightfoot said in an e-mailed statement earlier Saturday that a routine test of the company’s backup systems that morning resulted in an unintended system shutdown. Although technicians brought the system back online, he said, “connectivity issues” lingered throughout the day that continued to inconvenience Bridge Card users.
“We continue to investigate the cause of the issue so we can take steps to ensure a similar interruption does not re-occur,” Xerox said late Saturday in a statement on its website.
U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe told the Associated Press that the outage was unrelated to the federal government shutdown.
Metro Detroit store clerks told the Free Press that customers’ Bridge Cards stopped working around 10:30 a.m.
“We’ve turned down probably about 70% of the customers,” said Sharon McClendon, a manager at Glory Supermarket in Highland Park.
Joe Jackson, 68, of Detroit said he could buy just a third of the groceries he normally gets at Tom Boy Supermarket in the city’s Cass Corridor because of the outage. He stocked up on Pepsi and potato chips for the evening Tigers game, among other items in his bags.
“I had to spend cash,” said Jackson, who said he hopes the glitch is fixed by at least the end of the weekend. “I’ll try again on Monday.”
Inside the market, manager Sunny Patel figured the glitch had cut in half his normal Saturday business.
“I’ve been getting phone calls all day — ‘Is your system up? Is your system up?’ ” Patel said.