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Tech Problems Stop Food Stamp Purchases, Bridge Card Users ‘Out Of Luck’

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(credit: Marisa Fusinski/CBS Detroit)

(credit: Marisa Fusinski/CBS Detroit)

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - Michigan residents in a federal food program are being denied purchases with their debit-style cards because of technical problems.

Dave Akerly, a spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, said it’s a problem between retailers and Xerox, the company that provides high-tech services. Officials say a routine test of backup systems resulted in a system failure. The glitch extends beyond Michigan to at least 16 other states.

“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.

“Beneficiaries requiring access to their benefits can work with their local retailers who can activate an emergency voucher system where available. We appreciate our clients’ patience while we work through this outage as quickly as possible,” Wasmer added.

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

Retailers across the nation said multiple shoppers had to abandon baskets of groceries because they couldn’t access their benefits. At Metro Foodland in Detroit, manager Charlonda Love said the store has been empty because most customers use the card.

A woman from Fenton, who asked not to be identified, spoke with WWJ about her experience.

“I’ve been in two different stores and in both stores, I was told that food stamps could not be authorized so I was not able to make a purchase. I’m absolutely outraged and furious,” she said. “Today is Saturday, my only day off to go grocery shopping for my children and I’m very, very angry that this has happened.”

The federal program is commonly known as food stamps, although transactions are performed electronically in Michigan with the Bridge Card. Xerox is telling retailers to record sales by hand if possible.

Officials said they’re not sure when the system will be back up and running.

TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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