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Food stamp program problem left shoppers frustrated



Published: Sat, October 12, 2013 @ 8:15 p.m.

Food stamp program problem left shoppers frustrated

LIBERTY

A system failure with a food stamp debit-style card program left shoppers in the Mahoning Valley, as well as throughout Ohio and in 16 other states, frustrated.

“We had a bunch of people who tried to use it and it didn’t work,” said Sandra Sterchi, who works at the customer service center at the Giant Eagle in Liberty. “Everyone’s been calling and complaining.”

A routine test of backup systems by the Xerox Corp., the cards’ vendor, resulted in the cards not working at stores Saturday.

There were some angry customers at Walmart in Boardman who left behind shopping carts full of items, according to an employee there.

“While the electronic benefits system is now up and running, beneficiaries in the 17 affected states continue to experience connectivity issues to access their benefits. Technical staff is addressing the issue and expect the system to be restored soon,” Xerox spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer said in an emailed statement Saturday. “Beneficiaries requiring access to their benefits can work with their local retailers who can activate an emergency voucher system where available.”

Ohio’s cash and food assistance card payment systems went down at 11 a.m. Saturday, said Benjamin Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Ohio’s cash system was fixed, but he said that its electronic benefits transfer card system is still down. Johnson said Xerox is notifying retailers to revert to the manual system, meaning customers can spend up to $50 until the system is back online. Recipients of the state’s supplemental nutrition assistance program, or SNAP, should call the 800 number on the back of their card, and Xerox will guide them through the purchase process.

U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe underscored that the outage is not related to the government shutdown.

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 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 are a lot of families who are not going to be able to feed children because the system is being maintenanced,” Colman said. She planned to reach out to local officials. “You don’t want children going hungry tonight because of stupidity,” she said.

Colman said the store manager promised her that he would honor the day’s store flyer discounts next week.

In Clarksdale, Miss. — one of the poorest parts of one of the poorest states in the nation — cashier Eliza Shook said dozens of customers at Corner Grocery had to put back groceries when the cards failed Saturday because they couldn’t afford to pay for the food. After several hours, she put a sign on the front door to tell people about the problem.

“It’s been terrible,” Shook said in a phone interview. “It’s just been some angry folks. That’s what a lot of folks depend on.”


Comments

1bmanresident(597 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

That's funny, I had no issues buying food with my debit card. Amazing how earning a paycheck through legitimate work comes in handy!!

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2THESTUPIDITYofPEOPLE(4 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Amazing how people spout off without the facts! Most people who get food stamps do have legitimate work. Unfortunately, a great many jobs in our service industry society pay minimum wage or little more. Next time you go to a restaurant, remember that most of the people working there earn under the poverty level if they only have one child. Count yourself lucky to have, I am assuming, a middle class existence in which you were probably born.

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3Jerry(498 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

"..........I am assuming, a middle class existence in which you were probably born."
"Amazing how people spout off without the facts! "

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4THESTUPIDITYofPEOPLE(4 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The "amazing" referred to the blanket statement that contended people who receive food stamps do not have or perform legitimate work. I said "assuming" which is an implication that I did not know the fact of the matter as to the class stratum of the writer, but was merely trying to point out to the writer that he or she should not disparage those who may need assistance when clearly the writer does not.

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5THESTUPIDITYofPEOPLE(4 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

When communities and churches reached out to those who were struggling and invested their time and energy in people and charity was not a word of blasphemy, fewer people turned to the government for help. To have animosity toward people who need help is a sign of the extreme selfishness of these times. The soul, too, can have a lazy disposition.

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6lovethiscity(147 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The next time you feel so compelled to cast your stone of righteous indignation, remember this....

There, but for the Grace of God, go I.

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7danikytn(248 comments)posted 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Remember the days when people were humble? Even a bit ashamed to use public assistance? There is nothing wrong with needing help here and there, we all do. The problem I have is with the people who feel entitled. THe people who DONT work, and use the system as a career choice. If you need help and use it for its intended purpose, which is help until you get on your feet, then congratulations. However, you are in the minority.

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8bmanresident(597 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Hey Stupidity. I seem to have struck a cord here. I would assume you benefit from the benefits dished out by the state. Is the state also paying for your internet? I bet you have a free cellphone too. Can't forget cable tv and a big screen.

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9THESTUPIDITYofPEOPLE(4 comments)posted 11 months, 1 week ago

Only if I were a government employee would the state be paying for my internet and cell phone. Instead of being concerned that some of the peasants are being fed, why not worry about the feasting of the lords? The greater waste is in the corruption found in our government.

I do not "benefit from benefits". I have a college degree and pay my own way in the world. However, I am also aware that these are not the prosperous post -WWII (a war with some degree of purpose) times that baby boomers enjoyed in their childhood and early adulthood.

Perhaps instead of policing the world and selling out American industry, I would rather feed a percentage of our own populace than spend vast amounts of money waging wars never to be won and giving money to countries for goods made without quality control.

CHECK OUT feedingamerica.org in addition to a myriad of websites that have facts on FOOD assistance - this is different from CASH assistance.

Two to consider:
SNAP already has strict time-limits for unemployed workers. Able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) may only receive 3 months of SNAP benefits during any 3 year period, unless they are working in a qualifying job training program.

76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.[i]

It is fine to have a boot-straps, antiquated opinion, but you are bordering on the offensive. Apparently, I, too struck a CHORD - as in a musical resonance - not the cord that plugs in your big screen tv.

Furthermore, consider that America, while full of potential and resources, is continually declining in comparison to other industrialized countries in terms of life expectancy, education, overall mental and physical health,
and personal and public safety.

We have problems, but worrying about people receiving about $3 a day to eat shouldn't warrant such negativity.

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