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SNAP and TANF Cardholders Left Holding Bags of Groceries … DHS Says It’s A ‘Glitch’

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Imagine doing all of your grocery shopping, then waiting in line to pay for them — only to find at the end of all of that — that you can’t pay the bill!

About 28,000 Virgin Islanders getting federal Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp benefits or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits found themselves in that position on Wednesday.

When they tried to use their cards, a printed statement said that there was no money on their account so they could not buy anything. If there was any money on the card from last month, it was still there.

TANF and SNAP benefits are loaded onto debit cards by the Electronic Benefit Transfer or EBT system on the first day of each month.

Some 27,276 Virgin Islanders collected SNAP benefits as of April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.

An average of 804 Virgin Islanders collected TANF benefits each month in 2016, and 651 in 2017, according to HHS.

Human Services Department spokeswoman Carol Burke said the problem was a “system glitch.” Burke said the “contractor is trouble-shooting and benefits should be uploaded to EBT cards (today).”

Local grocery store lines could be long today as people try to use their cards as if if were the first of the month.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean region since 1989. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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