Millions Unable to Pay for Groceries After SNAP EBT Outage; Systems Later Restored

In this Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022, photograph, shoppers queue up in long lines to check out their items at a King Soopers grocery store in southeast Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP)
David Zalubowski/AP

Outages were reported on Sunday by participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), leaving millions unable to use their electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards to buy groceries at stores in some states.

SNAP subsidizes low-income families to help them purchase food using EBT, an electronic system similar to a debit card, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Down Detector, a website that tracks outages, recorded a surge in outages for SNAP EBT on Sunday afternoon. The tracker documented approximately  5,019 reports of outages at 2:50 p.m., WBRC noted.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that over 1.8 million Pennsylvanians were affected by the system shutdown.

South Carolina Social Services and the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) confirmed the outages on 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 has been informed by the state’s EBT vendor that the EBT system is currently down in Massachusetts & some other states. You will not be able to use your EBT card or check your real time balance at this time,” the Massachusetts agency wrote.

Later on Sunday, Conduent, an IT company that administers the EBT card system, announced that systems had been restored.

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

The South Carolina and Massachusetts agencies both later tweeted that the issues were resolved. It is unknown how many people or how many other states were affected by the outages.

As of 2:09 p.m. Eastern on Monday, it appeared that the systems were restored, with some outages still being documented, with approximately 426 reports, according to Down Detector.

Ellen Vollinger, legal director at the anti-poverty nonprofit Food Research & Action Center, noted that Sunday’s outage potentially left many low-income families unable to pay for groceries.

“This is about people having access to use benefits in stores,” Vollinger told the Inquirer. “Here we are on a Sunday, with people planning their week’s shopping, not being able to use their cards for food. People are waiting to get their groceries.”

 You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.


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