This situation was explained to me by an Oly grocery store clerk, any mistakes are my own. I don't yet see any news articles online about this and since it impacts many many people, I want to pass on the word. Some grocery stores locally have some of this info posted in their stores.
The company that got the government contract to run ebt cards (looks like that company is Hypercom - Update correction 6/21: state has contract with J.P. Morgan, source The Olympian) was supposed to have an office in every state. But instead they grouped 21 states together into one region and have only one office/center for the entire area.
So when the system goes down, which is has been doing regularly lately, all ebt card use in 21 states goes down. Which means people cannot use their benefits, which means in many cases that people cannot buy food.
We are nearing the end of the month which can be a difficult time for folks who are short on food. Families are easily down to only the funds left on their ebt cards. They have the funds on their cards but they cannot purchase necessary food when the ebt system is down.
Apparently recently the system was once again down, grocery stores were told that everything would be back up within a half hour, but it took 5 hours. Yesterday afternoon the system was again down, no clue when it would be back up.
So this means families who already are facing heavy challenges now have their access to food limited further. This means grocery store clerks are having to explain something they are not at fault for, this means distraught and hungry customers. This means that DSHS and other agencies will be flooded with calls from upset people who don't understand who is to blame for all this.
Have some food and/or time to donate to our local food bank? This would be an especially good time to do so.