NBC NEWS -- Access to the food stamp system was restored late Saturday following a computer failure that knocked out service to people across 17 states, preventing some from buying groceries.
"Beneficiary access to programs such as SNAP, TANF and other programs has been restored to the 17 states where Xerox provides EBT service," said a statement from vendor Xerox Corp, which manages the electronic benefits transfer cards. "Re-starting the EBT system required time to ensure service was back at full functionality."
The company apologized for the disruption, adding: "We realize that access to these benefits is important to families in the states we serve. We continue to investigate the cause of the issue so we can take steps to ensure a similar interruption does not re-occur."
Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and California were a few of the states where people reported having trouble using their food stamp cards Saturday.
A company spokeswoman confirmed Saturday afternoon that the system experienced connectivity issues.
"During a routine test of our back-up systems Saturday morning, Xerox's Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system experienced a temporary shutdown. While the system is now up and running, beneficiaries in the 17 affected states continue to experience connectivity issues to access their benefits," spokeswoman Karen Arena said in a statement.
Officials had advised beneficiaries to use the manual system in the meantime, which meant SNAP customers could spend up to $50 until the system is back online.
Eliza Shook, a cashier in Clarksdale, Miss., one of the country's poorest states, told The Associated Press dozens of customers at the grocery store where she works had to put back the groceries when their cards didn't work because they couldn't pay for their purchases otherwise.
"It's been terrible," Shook told the AP. "It's just been some angry folks. That's what a lot of folks depend on."
The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services issued another statement Saturday night:
"The contractor that maintains SNAP EBT transaction services for the state of Louisiana has informed DCFS that all store systems that handle EBT transactions have returned to normal service. The multi-state system outage, which began at approximately 11:00 a.m. Saturday, October 12, was the result of a technical issue and was not connected to the federal government shutdown.
While transactional systems maintained by DCFS contractors may have been impacted by today's outage, the systems that DCFS uses to track EBT card usage and identify fraud were still in place. DCFS vigorously investigates all fraud claims. Anyone suspected of fraudulently using public assistance benefits are investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The public is encouraged to report cases of suspected SNAP fraud by calling the DCFS toll-free hotline at 1-888-LAHELP-U and selecting option 7 from the main menu or by visiting www.dcfs.la.gov/ReportFraud."
Monroe Police were called as a precaution to the Walmart store on Lamy Lane in Monroe on Saturday, because of tensions over the EBT issues. Officers remained on stand-by into the night, according to police officials.
A representative for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which manages the SNAP program, said the service disruption was not related to the government shutdown.