The electronic system retailers use to process food stamps temporarily shut down Saturday, affecting Pennsylvania, New Jersey and 15 other states.
Officials at Xerox, which runs the Electronic Benefits Transfer system, said it crashed during a routine test of its backup system Saturday morning. The system lets retailers process Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Women, Infants and Children benefits from customers.
The shutdown potentially impacted hundreds of thousands of families across the region. More than 250,000 women and children receive WIC benefits in Pennsylvania, with nearly a third of them in Philadelphia. In New Jersey, nearly 170,000 women and children get the benefit.
Food-stamp beneficiaries were still experiencing "connectivity issues" Saturday evening, the company said in a statement. Those issues mean that anyone who tries to purchase food with an EBT card will be unable to do so, Xerox spokesman Kevin Lightfoot said.
However, retailers can help customers looking to use food stamps by activating an emergency voucher system, officials said. Those vouchers are good for an average of $50 per cardholder, Lightfoot said.
The company's statement said it expected to system to be restored "soon." Lightfoot declined to speculate when that might be.