State Fixing Bridge Card Mistake

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In need and without money. That is how about 35,000 people with the Michigan's Bridge card, more commonly known as food stamps, remain after a human error left 85,000 without money for January.

"We discovered [Thursday] morning is that the folks whose client identification number ends in zero didn't have the money placed on the card when it should have been," said Kurt Weiss, a state spokesman who works in the Dept. of Technology, Budget and Management.

Zero, that's not the last number on the front of the card, but the last digit in the customer identification number, and it seems those who end with zero got zero until the error was caught.

The only reason the state found out about the error is because cardholders and grocery stores started calling in.

"We immediately got to work to figure out what the problem was and got the fix moving as quickly as we could," said Weiss.

That fix is a computer process restoring the correct amounts to cards so that people can buy the groceries they need.

The state said it is working as quickly as possible to get the issue resolved.

"Part of the problem we are up against is the processing time for the file [that fixes the issue] gets slowed down when the cards are being activated and swiped in the grocery store so throughout the day we see the speed go up and go down," said Weiss.

Most card holders accounts should be fixed Friday, but some might not have the error reversed till as late as Saturday.

Michigan is ranked seventh in the nation when it comes to both the number of people with food stamp cards and the dollar amount distributed. About 1 in 5 have the Bridge card. That means the problem with the cards affected about one in 50 people in the state.

The state already had what it considered a back-up plan to avoid this error from ever happening. The fact that it still happened has them reevaluating.

"We certainly know that folks who went to the grocery store were expecting to get their groceries and they were turned away. That's not a good situation and we are doing everything that we can to fix it as quickly as we can," said Weiss. "Was it eye opening? Certainly, yes. We wouldn't expect this kind of problem. It certainly was a surprise to us."

Michigan has experienced what it calls minor technical problems in the past. This error was human and the back-up process to ensure no errors occur failed. Now the state must figure out a different system so that its processes work.

Any individuals or families in an emergency have been instructed to go to the food bank for food.

The state is looking at taking any disciplinary action against the employee who made the error.

"Do we need to put safeguards in place to make sure it doesn't happen again? Yes," said Weiss. "What those are we don't know exactly yet because we felt like we had some backup processes in place. Those obviously failed as well so we need to look at how we re-approach this in the coming months."

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