The anti-poverty program known as food stamps will be offline almost the entire day Sunday, a prime pre-Rosh Hashanah shopping day in the Jewish community, due to a system upgrade.
Several elected officials and hunger advocates in Brooklyn are questioning the timing of the upgrade, which comes three days before Rosh Hashanah — a three-day Yom Tov due to its proximity to Shabbos. They are asking the New York State Department of Health, which issued the warning on Tuesday, to push it off for a different day.
“This interruption of benefits will have a disproportionate and detrimental impact on our communities throughout New York state,” Assemblyman Dov Hikind wrote in a letter to the state. “…Our merchants prepare carefully for this Sunday, so it would be a great burden to our communities if this takes place. Please make a serious effort to postpone this system upgrade.”
State Sen. Simcha Felder said in a statement to Hamodia that he was “hopeful that the agency will understand the sensitivity of creating havoc right before Rosh Hashanah and reschedule.”
The state, which runs the federal program, formally as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), is changing vendors, and the system will be down for maintenance from midnight Motzoei Shabbos until about 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, director of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council told Hamodia.
“It’s unlikely they are going to postpone it,” Silber said, “but they should put in a public service notice. … Stores should have notices for their customers.”
Alexander Rapaport, director of the Masbia soup kitchen in Boro Park, said that he supported the call for the upgrade to be pushed off, but at the least the state should notify stores to allow them to inform customers.
“For the kollel groceries of the world, the Sunday before Yom Tov is the busiest day of the year,” Rapaport said. “People need to know at least, to be able to plan their shopping.”
What some people may end up doing, Rapaport suggested, is to buy “on the books” and pay afterward, when the food stamp card is working again.