Food stamp free-for-all after EBT glitch

10/14/13. Food stamp free-for-all after EBT glitch. Andrea Shea King,

“It was a food-stamp “free for all” this weekend after a “glitch” with payments in 17 states – as low-income Americans ransacked stores, cleared shelves and then abandoned shopping carts filled with food. 

The Electronics Benefits Transfer, or “EBT” cards (the electronic version of food stamps), system went down Saturday morning, leaving millions of food-stamp dependents without means to purchase food and other grocery items. The result? Complete chaos. And panic.

Shoppers left behind grocery-filled carts because they couldn’t get their benefits. Just walked away, tellingly leaving them for others to return unpaid-for grocery items back to shelves and freezers.

Not everyone was sympathetic to their plight. According to one shopper: “SNAP and the regular EBT ‘debit’ card system down in Mass. Amazing to watch how many well-dressed, gold-laden, high-heeled women put down their carts and walked out when the announcement was made. Made for nice quick lines for us paying folks.”

Another commented on the scads of tweets pouring forth from complaining EBT card holders, such that #EBT quickly appeared in Twitter’s top 10 trending topics: “These people are on a computer, paying for Internet service, with photos of their tattoos & wearing designer sun glasses, talking about starvation? Only in America.”

And, “It’s sad for those who really need it, but most of these people will get on their cell phone with Internet (which is better than my 5-year-old Verizon ‘regular cell phone’), and go on their Ipads (my newest computer is 5 years old) and b-tch about it.”

It wasn’t long before folks drew a connection between the EBT shutdown and the perils of Obamacare, with observations like this one: “EBT cards down all across the country and people panic. It is so easy for the government to control the people. Look forward to Obamacare.”

And this:

For at least two hours Saturday night, EBT cards were not showing limits, and recipients went wild at Walmart stores, stuffing their carts so full of items that local police had to be called in Springfield and Mansfield, La.

Facebook photo shows empty shelves at Springhill, La., Walmart store after a run on meat and other food Saturday night

Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd told KSLA-TV his officers were on the scene to help store employees because so many people were ransacking the shelves. He said, “It was worse than any Black Friday.”

Around 9 p.m. local time, the cards began showing limits again.

According to Lynd, one woman was detained because she rang up a $700 grocery bill but only had 49 cents on her card. Walmart’s corporate headquarters said it wouldn’t press charges if she left the food.

But with the loudspeaker announcement that the EBT cards were back online, shoppers began abandoning their jam-packed carts in droves, leaving food in the aisles and checkout lines.

Walmart employees restocked the shelves late into Sunday afternoon.

According to Job Cut News, “[A] record 46 million Americans now on food stamps, an increase of 20 million people since the Great Recession in 2007. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 41 percent of food-stamp recipients live in households where someone does earn a paycheck – the so-called ‘working poor.’ To be eligible for food stamps for a family of four, the maximum income is $29,064. For a single person, it’s $14,160.”

Welcome to the fundamentally transformed America.”

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