Food assistance EBT cards don't work at stores without electricity

Retailers can submit manual forms, but process takes longer

Iowans using food assistance benefit transfer cards may have a harder time buying food since Monday’s storm knocked out power to many grocery stores.

If stores don’t have electricity, they can’t accept any type of card payment, whether that’s a credit or debit card or an Electronic Benefit Transfer card used to buy groceries in Iowa’s Food Assistance Program, said Matt Highland, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services.

“Stores who remain open without power can accept manual vouchers, but they are not required to do so,” he said.

To accept a manual voucher, the store would ask the customer to show his or her EBT card to the cashier. A store employee would then complete a paper voucher and call a vendor, Conduent, to get an authorization number for the EBT card holder, Highland said.

Once there is authorization for the transaction, the customer then signs the voucher, gets a copy and leaves with the food. The retailer has 10 days to “clear” the voucher once power is restored.

When the retailer contacts Conduent, the call puts a “hold” on the funds for that transaction so the money can’t be used elsewhere, Highland said.

He said the department hasn’t heard complaints from grocery stores about the voucher process or EBT users about stores not accepting the cards.


DHS announced this week households with state food aid may request replacement of food that spoiled because of power outages after the storm.

“As a general rule, food will keep four hours if stored in a refrigerator, 24 to 48 hours if stored in a freezer,” its website says. “Households have 10 calendar days from when they discover food loss to complete the application.”

The form is available to download online and a clear image of the completed form can be emailed to

Forms also are available at local DHS offices or by mail. Completed paper forms can be submitted to local offices in person, by mail or by fax. To find an office, use the DHS Office Locator.

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