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Md. and Va. food stamp websites go down due to nationwide system outage

Sunday - 10/13/2013, 2:04am  ET

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A sign at a grocery store in Temple Hills, Md tells customers of the problem with EBT Saturday afternoon. (WTOP/Tristiana Hinton)

WASHINGTON - Major problems plagued the Electronic Benefits Transfer System Saturday.

The website that handles Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits went down in 17 states, including Virginia and Maryland.

Xerox, which has the contract to run EBT systems in several states, including Maryland and Virginia, says it experienced a temporary shutdown during a routine test of the company's back-up system.

"During routine maintenance on its data center today, the IT vendor we use to administer the food stamp program experienced an outage with their Electronic Benefits Transfer system," Maryland Department of Human Resources spokesman Brian M. Schleter tells WTOP. "The statewide outage is ongoing."

Though the EBT system is back online, Xerox says beneficiaries in the affected states are still experiencing connectivity problems.

"Technical staff is addressing the issue and expect the system to be restored soon," Xerox spokeswoman Jennifer Wasmer tells WTOP. "Beneficiaries requiring access to their benefits can work with their local retailers who can activate an emergency voucher system where available.

Other states -- like Oklahoma -- that also contract their EBT system with Xerox, experienced similar problems.

"Xerox said they experienced a power outage at their data center," Sheree Powell, spokesperson at Oklahoma Department of Human Services, tells WTOP. "They restored the power quickly but it takes a while to reboot these system. They told us they already had the debit card system back up and were working on the EBT system."

The federal website for the programs is run by the Department of Agriculture. Its sites are not accessible because of the government shutdown, and USDA public affairs staff are furloughed.

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