There have been multiple instances of EBT systems being down across various states, causing issues for millions of SNAP recipients relying on this vital service. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the EBT outages, including the causes, which states have been impacted, how long the downtime lasts, as well as how recipients can still access benefits during the disruptions.
What is EBT?
EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer. It is the system used by state governments to issue SNAP benefits (also known as food stamps) to eligible low-income individuals and families. The benefits are deposited into an EBT account each month, which the recipient can access with an EBT card. The card works similar to a debit card and can be used to purchase eligible food items at participating retailers.
Main Causes of EBT System Outages
There are a few key factors that generally lead to EBT systems going down temporarily:
- Hardware or software failures – Glitches in the technology infrastructure supporting EBT can cause outages. This could include issues with servers, networks, or vendor systems.
- Power outages – Since EBT relies on electricity, any disruptions to power grids can knock systems offline.
- Scheduled maintenance – EBT systems need regular upkeep and upgrades which requires downtime.
- High traffic volumes – Spikes in usage can overload EBT networks, causing slowdowns or crashes.
- Security issues – Breaches, hacks, or cyber attacks may force systems offline to prevent fraud.
Most outages are due to technical malfunctions or maintenance. The problems typically get resolved within a day or two. However, major disruptions can last longer depending on the severity.
States Impacted by EBT Outages
Here are some of the major EBT system outages that have occurred so far:
June 1, 2024 – National Outage
A multi-state EBT failure impacted benefit distribution systems across the U.S. on June 1. The outage prevented card transactions for over 24 hours. Impacted states included:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The outage was caused by a technical failure at the vendor Conduent, who manages many state EBT programs. Their systems went down preventing card transactions across multiple states.
August 4, 2024 – California Outage
California’s EBT system experienced a major failure on August 4 resulting in declined EBT card transactions statewide. The outage lasted around 12 hours. The technical issues were blamed on a server failure according to the California Department of Social Services.
August 19, 2024 – Ohio Outage
Ohio’s EBT system crashed on August 19 causing issues statewide. It resulted in transaction failures preventing SNAP recipients from purchasing groceries. The system was back online within 15 hours after technicians resolved a technical malfunction.
September 2, 2024 – New Mexico Outage
New Mexico’s EBT system went down due to a network failure on September 2. It left over 240,000 SNAP recipients unable to use EBT cards temporarily. System functionality was restored by the next day.
While these are some of the larger outages, localized EBT failures have occurred in many other states throughout 2024 leading to temporary disruptions ranging from a few hours to multiple days.
How Long Do EBT Outages Last?
The duration of EBT system outages can vary significantly depending on the nature and scale of the technical issues. Some factors that influence how long downtime lasts include:
- Source of the failure – Software bugs can sometimes be resolved faster than hardware repairs.
- Severity of the problem – Minor glitches are quicker to fix than widespread network failures.
- Vendor responsiveness – Speed at which third-party vendors address issues impacts restoration time.
- Time and date – Outages on weekends take longer to fix if technical staff is unavailable.
- Number of states affected – Multi-state failures are more complex to recover from.
Here are some typical EBT outage timeframes:
- Minor technical failures – Can last from 1 hour up to a full day.
- Isolated system crashes – Outages may persist for 12-24 hours.
- Extensive network disruptions – Can cause over 1-3 days of downtime.
- Major infrastructure issues – Restoration can take 3 days or longer in severe cases.
Vendors and government agencies work urgently to minimize outage durations. However, completely restoring massive EBT systems is a technically challenging and time-intensive process.
Impact of EBT Outages
Downtime in EBT services severely impacts the 42 million Americans reliant on SNAP benefits, including millions of low-income families with children, elderly, and disabled individuals. Key effects include:
- Inability to purchase food – With EBT cards declined, recipients cannot access groceries.
- Disruption of meal plans – Outages force recipients to scramble to find alternate means of food.
- Increased hunger risk – Loss of access to food worsens malnutrition.
- Financial difficulties – Food must be purchased out-of-pocket during outages.
- Help line congestion – Call volumes to EBT service numbers spike during outages.
- Reduced program confidence – Too many disruptions undermine faith in EBT system reliability.
Even short outages of a few hours can severely impact vulnerable recipients missing meals. Extensive multi-day failures exacerbate hardships for EBT users relying on the consistent availability of these essential benefits.
How to Get SNAP Benefits During EBT Outages
Despite the immense disruptions EBT system downtime causes, there are some options available to recipients for accessing benefits during outages:
1. Contact EBT Customer Service
States generally have dedicated EBT customer service lines. Recipients can call to check system status, report problems, or ask questions. Long hold times can be expected during widespread outages.
2. Visit EBT Websites or Social Media
States will often post system updates on their EBT websites/social media. These can provide info on when functionality is expected to be restored.
3. Use Manual Voucher System
Some states have emergency manual voucher procedures to authorize purchases during prolonged outages. Vouchers are filled out by hand and verified later when systems are back online.
4. Make Eligible Food Purchases
If retailers are able to use stand-alone EBT machines, benefits may still be accessible even if main systems are down. Some stores can process transactions manually.
5. Ask Retailers About IOUs
During extended outages, some retailers institute IOU policies allowing regular EBT recipients to receive groceries on credit until benefits can be reimbursed.
6. Utilize Food Banks and Pantries
Local food banks and pantries become vital during EBT emergencies. Recipients should check locations and hours to access free groceries until benefits return.
Preparing for EBT Outages
While inevitable, there are some ways EBT recipients can prepare for potential system failures to mitigate disruptions:
- Maintain backup savings if possible for emergency grocery purchases.
- Keep non-perishable food on hand to supplement meals if benefits become unavailable.
- Familiarize yourself with outlet locations and individual retailer policies regarding EBT outages.
- Save local food bank information in your phone in case of a prolonged outage.
- Follow your state’s EBT social media accounts for real-time updates on system status.
- Have the EBT customer service line programmed in your phone for quick access.
- Check your EBT balance regularly so you know exactly what benefits you have remaining in case of an outage.
Other Potential Causes of EBT Card Declines
While system outages commonly trigger widespread EBT failures, there are other possible reasons for transaction declines or access issues:
- Point-of-sale device failures – If a retailer’s EBT terminal is down, purchases may be declined.
- Card damage – Worn cards may fail to read properly at checkout resulting in denials.
- Exceeded limits – Daily ATM withdrawal limits can also lead to declines after exceeding the threshold.
- Incorrect PIN entry – After multiple incorrect PIN entries, accounts can be temporarily frozen.
- Empty accounts – Attempts to transact with zero balances will fail.
- Benefit expirations – Purchases will be denied if monthly benefits have expired.
- Retailer restrictions – Ineligible items will also trigger transaction failures.
During smaller-scale or localized issues, it helps to check other troubleshooting steps before assuming an outage. Getting to the root cause of EBT declines quickly can prevent hardship.
People Also Ask
Why did my food stamps go down?
There are several reasons SNAP benefits may decrease, including: lower income causing reduced eligibility amount, change in household size, expiring temporary allotment boosts, cost-of-living adjustments to benefits, substantial non-rent expenses decreasing, asset increases, or SNAP penalties being applied.
Why is my EBT card not working?
If an EBT card is not working, possible reasons include: the card is damaged and needs replacement, chip malfunction, SNAP benefits have been exhausted for the month, system outages or retailer terminal issues, exceeding daily ATM withdrawal limits, or incorrect PIN being entered too many times.
Why won’t my EBT card work at Walmart?
Issues using an EBT card at Walmart may be caused by system outages impacting Walmart EBT services, problems with Walmart point-of-sale terminals, card chip failures, damaged EBT cards not scanning properly, or expiration of monthly SNAP benefits.
How can I check my EBT balance by phone for free?
Calling the number on the back of your EBT card allows checking your SNAP or cash benefit balance for free through the automated customer service system. You’ll need your card number and PIN. Most states also offer EBT balance checks via free official mobile apps.
Can you transfer money from one EBT account to another?
No, transferring funds between two different EBT accounts is prohibited. EBT benefits are non-transferable. Each household has a unique EBT allotment that can only be accessed using the cards assigned to that case.
Why did I get extra food stamp money this month?
Potential reasons for increased SNAP allotments include: emergency supplemental funding applied to accounts, annual cost-of-living adjustments raising benefit amounts, pandemic EBT add-ons, minimum benefit bumps, restored benefits after previous reductions, or transitional boosts after eligibility changes.
Why is my EBT saying insufficient funds?
Seeing an insufficient funds message on an EBT card means the available SNAP or cash benefit balance is too low to cover the amount of a transaction. This usually indicates monthly allotment has been mostly or fully spent, requiring waiting until next issuance.
Why am I unable to use my EBT card?
An EBT card may become unable to be used due to: card damage, expired benefits, forgotten or incorrect PIN after too many tries, account deactivation, system outages, issues with retailer equipment, card confiscation after alleged misuse, or freezing after a reported lost or stolen card.
How do I activate my EBT card?
New EBT cards must be activated by calling the phone number listed on the card’s packaging or backside. You’ll need the 16-digit card number. An automated system will walk you through choosing a 4-digit PIN to activate card use for SNAP and cash benefits.