EBT Crash Has Nothing To Do With The Government Shutdown, Nor Obamacare

People are quick to see the timing of today's crash of the EBT system in 17 states as having something to do with the government shutdown, or even Obamacare. That's not really the case.

EBT Grocery Store

Shopping carts are coming out empty today in several states, as a power outage at Xerox caused their EBT system to shut down.  (Image Source: Reuters)

Today, a glitch during a system test at Xerox caused a power outage and temporarily shut down EBT services.  While the system was restored, 17 states are still having trouble connecting to the EBT service at the moment.  EBT, or Electronic Benefit Transfer, is the debit-card system of providing government benefits to poor or elderly citizens.  The primary form EBT takes is its use in the Supplemental Nutrional Assistance Program (SNAP), known more commonly as food stamps.  People were quick to assume the EBT glitch as having something to do with, or as having an impact on, either the government shutdown or even Obamacare.  However, that assumption is not only false, but just goes to show what narratives people seem to want to take.

The federal government contracts out the service of processing EBT payments to third parties, Xerox being one of them.  The glitch happened during a weekend maitenance test at a processing center somewhere in the Midwest, where Xerox was testing a backup system to ensure it ran properly in the event of a system failure.  The resulting power outage affected most of the nation briefly, but the following states have suffered a continued outage at this time:

  • Pennsylvania
  • New Jersey
  • Oklahoma
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Illinois
  • Ohio
  • Michigan
  • Virginia
  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • California
  • Texas
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Iowa

Also affected by the EBT outage is the WIC, which provides additional benefits to families.

The Department of Agriculture, which runs the SNAP and WIC programs, made it clear to the press that the federal government's shutdown, now in its 12th day, has nothing to do with the outage.  In a way, they are right: Food stamps were already funded at least to November.  While WIC is expected to receive some funding cuts, the method of which those funds were received were completely separate from the government.

Some pundits want to tie this into Obamacare because of the fact that glitches continue to prevent access to the website dedicated to the program, Healthcare.gov.  However, even though both things are complicated and a single glitch could bring either of them down, it is far-fetched to compare the two systems, especially since they are run by two separate groups, and one of them has only been active for only 12 days in what was the largest site launch in history.  Once again, we see believing a narrative over actually understanding a situation take place here.