Millions Unable to Pay for Groceries During SNAP Outage


    SNAP helps low-income families assist them in purchasing food with EBT which is an electronic system that is similar to a debit card issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    The Down Detector, a site which tracks outages, observed an increase in outages related to SNAP EBT Sunday evening. The tracker recorded around 5,019 outages as of 2:50 p.m. 

    The Philadelphia Inquirer stated that more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians were affected by the shutdown of the system.

    South Carolina Social Services and the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) confirmed the outages via Twitter on Sunday.

    “DSS is aware of EBT processing issues with approved retailers, impacting the ability for clients to use their EBT cards, due to a third party processor outage impacting programs in multiple states,” the South Carolina agency stated.

    “DTA is advised by Massachusetts' EBT provider that their EBT system is currently unavailable in Massachusetts as well as other states. It is not possible to utilize an EBT card or view your real-time balance,” the Massachusetts agency said in a letter.

    On the Sunday following, Conduent, an IT company that runs EBT card systems, announced that it had been restored. 

    “The Conduent technology team has been able to successfully restore all impacted services pertaining to this matter,” an official spokesperson from Conduent said on Sunday night. “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

    There was a tweet from the South Carolina and Massachusetts agencies that have since announced that the issue was solved. It is unclear how many people were affected, or the number of other states were affected by the outages.

    At 2:09 p.m. Eastern on Monday, it appeared that the systems were back up but some outages remain being recorded, with around 426 complaints as per Down Detector.

    Ellen Vollinger, legal director at the anti-poverty organization Food Research & Action Center, said that the outage of Sunday may have caused many families living in poverty to be in a position of not being able to purchase groceries.

    “This is about people having access to benefits in stores,” Vollinger explained. “Here it is Sunday and people are planning their shopping for the week and not being able to make use of their credit cards to purchase food. The people are waiting to pick up their food.”


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