People in Ohio, Michigan and 15 other states found themselves temporarily unable to use their food stamp debit-style cards on Saturday, after a routine test of backup systems by vendor Xerox Corp. resulted in a system failure.
Xerox announced late in the evening that access had been restored for users affected by the outage, hours after the first problems were reported. Florida was not among the states.
"Re-starting the EBT system required time to ensure service was back at full functionality," spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer said in an email.
An emergency voucher process was available in some of the areas while the problems were occurring, Wasmer said.
U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe underscored that the outage was 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 EBT 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.
"There are a lot of families who are not going to be able to feed children," she said.
Ohio's cash and food assistance card payment systems went down at 11 a.m., said Benjamin Johnson, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
David Akerly, a spokesman for Michigan's Department of Human Services, also confirmed that residents in his state reported problems using their cards.
The affected states were Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.