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85,000 Michigan recipients without food assistance

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Entertainment,Food and Drink

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A human error left 85,000 food assistance recipients in Michigan without money they were expecting on their state-issued debit cards Thursday, forcing officials to scramble to fix the problem after hearing from groceries and angry customers.

About one-tenth of the state's 1.8 million food stamp recipients, those with account numbers ending in "0," were affected by the problem. State employees and vendors planned to work overnight into Friday to load money onto the Bridge Cards.

The state Department of Technology, Management and Budget "understands the hardship that this situation has caused Michigan families and the inconvenience to the businesses that serve them," spokesman Kurt Weiss said in a statement. "We are working around the clock to correct the problem as quickly as possible and we will determine why it occurred."

A family receiving food assistance gets about $540 a month on average.

Weiss told The Associated Press late Thursday that the money should have been on the debit cards as of 8 a.m. Thursday.

"We found out about it from grocers. They said, 'We're turning people away because their card was not loaded,'" he said. "They had angry customers."

Recipients typically know the day each month that money is added to their card and many time their first trip to the store accordingly, Weiss said. A phone line for Bridge Card users "exploded," he said, with calls Thursday quadrupling from 3,000 in a normal day to more than 13,000.

Though 85,000 recipients have been directly affected by the error, the total impacted is higher because many also buy food for family members.

Recipients of food assistance can call 888-678-8914 for updates. Bridge Cards are given to both welfare and food stamp recipients in Michigan.

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