CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Food stamp frustration flared up as a computer glitch kept thousands of Eastern Iowans from being able to buy groceries Saturday. The good news -- the debit card system that failed was back up after 10 hours.
About 415,000 Iowans receive food stamps known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Each person receives an average of $120 per month to pay specifically for food items.
"I went through like three different gas stations. I went to the fairway grocery store. They were all down," said Cedar Rapids mother Amber, who withheld her last name.
Amber's Electronic Benefits Transfer card, or EBT card, was one of thousands that didn't work at grocery stores across Iowa. At first, she and others suspected the government shutdown was to blame. Turns out it was Xerox Corp. The company said their EBT system experienced a temporary shutdown Saturday morning and created malfunctions in at least 17 states.
While officials corrected the problem, moms wondered when loved ones would get their next meal.
"I was aggravated. I'm like, 'okay, how am I going to feed my kids?'" said Amber.
Grocers weren't too happy about it either. Employees at Jim's Foods in Cedar Rapids had to start turning EBT customers away until the glitches were resolved.
"At least 10," said Jim's Cashier Chelsi Gagnon. "One of our major sales is through food stamps. A lot of people come in here, they do their grocery shopping, buy their drinks-- you know stuff for their kids."
Iowa implemented an emergency support program for EBT users to fill the void. During the system failure people could head to groceries and request $50 vouchers for daily assistance.
Iowa DHS officials said in a statement they realized the situation caused an inconvenience for a lot of people. They said they'll be examining the issue.