Food Pantries Get Busier After Bridge Card Glitch

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 04, 2013

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Roughly 85,000 bridge card recipients statewide lost funding late this week.

The state government is blaming it on “human error.”

While most of those accounts have been restored now, many are still feeling the effects. As a result, local food pantries are seeing more visitors.

“We’ve gone through huge amount of food, in a very short amount of time. You know, you can see the big gaps here,” Shawn Keener, the Program Director for UCOM said.

She’s helped those needing food and other assistance for 17 years.

Keener said food typically flies off the shelf in January and February, because families spend more money during the holidays and not to mention higher heating bills.

However, foot traffic at the end of this week has been off the charts.

“Yesterday was very busy,” Keener said.  “We had a higher turnout of folks during the day time and a much higher turnout in the evening and I didn’t really know what to attribute that to until I heard about the glitches in the food stamp program.”

She said 80 percent of her clients are a part of the state’s bridge program.

According to the State Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB), thousands of bridge card recipients across the state didn’t receive their monthly allowance.

People like Nancy Eggers. She started receiving benefits 9 months ago, after she couldn’t pay her mortgage.  She now works at a local grocery store and takes in a modest income.

“There were 85,000 total cards impacted, which represents about 10 percent of the total number of cards out there,” Kurt Weiss, DTMB spokesperson said.

He said cardholders with a ‘client identification number’ ending with a “zero” were affected. (Eggers said her client ID number doesn’t end in zero.)

Weiss said more than half of the cards have been fixed so far. But what exactly went wrong?

“What happened was that a file that is needed in order to load this, the benefit onto the card… a file that was needed to be shipped to our vendor partner did not get shipped,” Weiss said.

He said, “It was an individual human error within DTMB, and we are taking full responsibility for the problem.”

Eggers hasn’t gone to the food bank yet, but she’s called around.

“If this was going to be like a week, definitely, I’m going to have to, I mean, you know I have a little bit left to survive, but I’m just one person and I’m not proud to say I’m receiving them, but there’s family’s out there with kids,” Eggers said.

Keener said, “We like being here and being a safety net, but the best possible scenario is that people don’t need us.”

Those receiving benefits can call 1-888-678-8914 to check their account balance.