Confusion caused by shutdown affects shoppers

Some students from Grambling State University were surprised when they had to leave behind baskets full of groceries Saturday at Walmart in Ruston.

Computer glitches had forced the retail giant to stop accepting EBT cards, the debit-style food stamp cards.

“Initially I was in disbelief that I couldn’t get the basic necessities that I usually get a month,” said sophomore mass communication major Francheska Howard from Monroe. 

“I had to come to my senses and realize that it was not the Walmart employees’ fault.” 

Louisiana was one of 17 states affected by the computer problems. But it was only in two Louisiana cities where shoppers not only did not have to leave purchases behind, they were able to get everything on their shopping list – and then some.

The Walmarts located in Mansfield and Springhill experienced near-chaos as shoppers went on a massive shopping spree after they were allowed to use their EBT cards that temporarily had no limit. 

Howard had to leave behind chips, noodles, soda, water, fruit snacks, hot pockets ice cream, crackers, cookies and other food items suitable for her college living. 

She added that she didn’t think it was fair that the Walmart in Ruston stopped taking EBT because of what happened in Mansfield and Springhill.

Fortunately, the government shutdown, which has temporarily ended, had nothing to do with users of the Electronic Benefits Transfer System, but after a routine test of backup systems by vendor Xerox Corp., the collapsed system resulted in Louisiana and 16 other states being affected.

The pandemonium in those Walmarts resulted in police regulation. Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd said that the chaotic weekend was worse than “any Black Friday.” 

The shopping frenzy lasted from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and during the duration, shoppers loaded their carts in an effort to maximize their temporary limit less budget, but once the card began showing their limits, shoppers were forced to abandon their groceries.   

According to both cities police reports, nobody has been arrested because of the madness, however there were several filled shopping carts were left abandon in the aisles. 

The EBT system is now restored and fully functioning. Shoppers who use food stamps can now purchase their groceries. 

As far as the shoppers who surpassed their food stamp limit, they will be under investigation for fraud.

According to a notice posted on the LA DCFS website on Saturday: 

“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.” 

LA DCFS also posted, “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”