Food stamp outage creates chaos at local Wal-Marts

Food stamp outage creates chaos at local Wal-Marts

Wal-Marts in Springhill and Mansfield allow customers to buy unlimited food on their EBT cards until outage is fixed.
An Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card outage in 17 states Saturday led to a shopping frenzy for food stamp recipients at the Wal-Mart stores in Springhill, and Mansfield Louisiana.

Several hundred locals receiving the benefits on their EBT cards headed to the stores after learning they could make purchases on their cards without limits. 

O.J. Evans of Mansfield, LA videotaped the aftermath of on his cell phone.

"I was astonished you know. Like buggies everywhere filled to the rim,” said Evans.

When the cards began to properly function around 9 p.m. Saturday, he said an employee stated over the intercom if you have more in your cart than your card limit allows, you’re to leave the store. Mansfield Police said people simply left the cart filled to the rim in the aisles and left the store.

Mansfield Police were called to the store to assist with crowd control.

"There were so many people in the store that they actually had to shut the doors because of a fire hazard,” said Chief Gary Hobbs.  “There were several people that had as many as six to eight buggies full leaving the store.”

While many retailers decided not to accept EBT card purchases Saturday while the system was down, Wal-Mart decided to allow EBT card purchases. Hobbs said the cards were swiped when EBT card users made purchases. Kayla Whaling said Wal-Mart allowed the purchases because “it was focusing on taking care of the customers, allowing them to buy the food and necessities they needed. She said this is an isolated incident.

"Our teams are monitoring transactions during the outages. We’re fortunate to be there for our customers and continue to accept EBT cards in stores impacted by the outage, “ said Kayla Whaling, a Wal-Mart spokesperson.

Whaling also stated that Wal-Mart is throwing out all food that was left behind and not up to quality standards. Employees at the Wal-Mart in Mansfield said they are still stocking shelves, and have been since Saturday night. They said a ton of food has been thrown out.

Hobbs said if people left the store with more food than their card limit allows, then he considers that theft.

NBC 6 contacted Trey Williams, the spokesperson for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to see if they’d punish the EBT card recipient that overspent their limits. DCFS is the agency that selects EBT card recipients but Xerox is the entity that oversees the card transaction system. Xerox is responsible for the card glitch.

According to Williams, there is an emergency EBT card outage procedure where the retailer is supposed to get permission from Xerox to allow each EBT card user $50 worth of purchases. He said Wal-Mart did not follow this procedure.

"These businesses are only being reimbursed for the amount of benefits that were on individual cards and they are responsible for any additional amounts spent over these eligible benefits."

Williams said taxpayer dollars are not funding the EBT card shopping frenzy, and that DCFS will not punish those who overspent their limits during the outage. However, he said his agency will cooperate with Wal-Mart, Xerox, and law enforcement if they decide to punish those who over spent their limits.

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