A headline in the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice caught our attention the other day. "Food stamps outage sparks outrage."
The Department of Public Welfare, in an effort to make changes to the food stamp card for low income residents, announced last week it would be disabling the cards between 11 p.m. Saturday and noon on Sunday to switch vendors.
Only there was a glitch.
The card access was not restored on Sunday, the day that many families were stocking their fridges and pantries the week before Easter. In fact it didn't go back online until sometime midday Monday, a Wilkes-Barre super market worker tells us.
On Sunday, there was chaos at supermarkets throughout Wilkes-Barre, the newspaper reported.
In some stores, angry customers barked at cashiers and abandoned shopping carts full of food while stock workers scrambled to return ice cream and frozen dinners to the freezers before they thawed, all on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
"It was a total mess," said Tom Baseski, owner of Thomas' Market in Kingston.
Oops, we did it again.
That's what we thought when we heard the news.
For at least the fourth time since Gov. Corbett took office in Jan. 2011 a vulnerable population had their government services disrupted by "glitches" during major overhauls to programs affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the name of reform, cost savings and "efficiency."
Medicaid - More than 110,000 children children lost coverage last year during the Corbett administration's quest to combat "waste, fraud and abuse." Recipients were stripped of coverage while eligibility reviews were conducted, the Inquirer reported. Benefits for some 23,000 children were eventually restored, many required legal help.
Unemployment compensation - The closure of state unemployment offices and layoffs of more than 100 workers frustrated efforts by thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians to receive their compensation checks in a timely fashion. The state Department of Labor and Industry blamed the problems on federal funding cuts that the U.S. Department of Labor denied occurred.
Payments to health care providers - Hundreds of health care workers - most of whom work for wages barely above the minimum - but who provide vital services to the disabled, went months without paychecks during a year-long transition to a new Boston-based payroll company. As of last month, the issue was still not resolved.
In the case of the food stamp cards, the state switched from J.P. Morgan to Xerox as the card vendor in a move that a DPW official told the Citizens Voice will save $700,000 a month.
The official added the change will not "affect users."
Tell that to millions who rely on food stamps. An employee at Schiele's Market in Wilkes-Barre tells us the card didn't go back online until sometime midday Monday.
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