The grave consequences resulting from power outages proved just how far their reach can extend this past weekend, when a brief cut in Texas caused food stamp recipients in 17 states to lose access to the electronic system used by stores to verify their benefits.
The glitch left many unable to buy groceries for much of the day in Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. People enrolled in the government food assistance program use plastic vouchers similar to debit cards.
The failure occurred around 11 a.m. on Saturday as Xerox, the company responsible for maintaining the electronic system, was testing its generator backups. Although Xerox was able to restore primary power within 20 minutes, connectivity to the state system remained down, with shoppers encountering difficulties throughout the day.
While most people have come to possess a general awareness of the potential devastation posed by power outages, the weekend’s break down served as a painful — if not timely — reminder of the need for high quality and exceptionally reliable power protection systems.
Indeed, following the event, Xerox vowed to work to improve its system so similar events do not occur in the future. "We realize that access to these benefits is important to families in the states we serve," the company said in a statement. "We continue to investigate the cause of the issue so we can take steps to ensure a similar interruption does not re-occur."