SNAP Violation Civil Money Penalties
The cost of living is high in numerous regions of the United States. As a result, millions of families in this country consistently fall short financially for all of their living expenses and bills. Many times, they run out of money to put food on the table and care for their children in spite of the fact that adults in the home work full-time or receive disability benefits for their families. It’s a remarkable obstacle that millions of Americans face day in and day out, even though almost no one is open to discuss their financial troubles, even with people they know. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a government benefit system created and implemented by the U.S. government to furnish nutrition assistance to families who face the uncertainty of providing adequate nutrition to their families.
SNAP is the biggest of the schemes the federal government has launched to assist in feeding the hungry and getting much needed supplemental nutrition to children and families in lower socioeconomic households. The purpose is to give adults who are indeed employed but earn low wages and face difficulties making ends meet an opportunity to alleviate the pressure of an inadequate food budget for their families so no one has to remain hungry. That said, it’s entirely too common for both grocers who accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards and benefit recipients to have misrepresented themselves on their applications to get more money and benefits out of the government. If you own a grocery store that serves SNAP benefit customers and you get a SNAP Civil Money Penalty letter in the mail, you are advised to pay keen attention and take this extremely seriously. You are not allowed to sell liquor products, like Hennessy, for example.
Civil Money Penalty Basics
In essence, the SNAP Civil Money Penalty is a charge letter that lists alleged violations and the related sanctions a business has been charged for conducting illegal transactions and profiting unscrupulously from their ability to accept EBT benefits payments. Should such a letter show up in your mailbox, it indicates a very grave situation and it would follow that you should get yourself a good attorney with haste. Profiting from SNAP benefits is considered by the USDA as a criminal offense, and you can be fined heavily and sanctioned for crimes in this category.
In the event that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is of the belief that your business has been profiting financially or benefitting in any other form from the improper use of EBT cards that your customers use in your store, they dispatch a letter to you. The letter lays out two options. The first is to respond to the letter within the 10 (ten) days you are granted to pay a cash fine and keep your store’s SNAP license. In option two, you can ignore the letter or respond too late and have your store disqualified from accepting SNAP payments.
As we have said, you have only 10 (ten) days to reply to the Civil Money Penalties letter. They do not provide an option to apply for an extension. This is an exceedingly stringnet procedure with no exceptions. The USDA expects your answer as to whether you’re going to send in the money in an effort to hold on to your license to accept SNAP benefits or not.
Why bother with a Civil Money Penalty?
Some business proprietors question the wisdom of paying a monetary penalty for this instead of simply accepting a suspension of their SNAP license. The answer is fairly straightforward. In this country, millions of dollars in sales take place through EBT cards annually for the use of SNAP benefits. If you lose the ability to accept EBT cards from your customers, you will lose customers. There are millions of people who are simply not able to pay for their monthly food supplies out of their working income, and the fact that you can no longer accept their EBT cards for food means you’re not going to benefit from their frequent business anymore.
The financial ramifications of no longer having a license to accept SNAP payments suspended even temporarily are far more expensive for most businesses than the amount of a fine. On top of this fact, you may not have enough knowledge to properly respond to the letter, to make your payment of the fine, or to know what you need to do when a letter arrives in the mail in the first place. This is particularly true if you are not fully clear about why you have been sent such a letter. That’s why hiring an experienced criminal attorney cannot wait another day.
How Can My Attorney Help Me?
The ins and outs of SNAP civil money penalties are not so simple for the average individual to navigate. In addition to the huge number of requirements, rules, and stipulations associated with them, there are far too many miniscule details for an untrained individual to wrap their head around in 10 days or less intimate knowledge of the laws.
Some questions to consider:
- Have you implemented SNAP compliance policies at your store?
- Can you prove that your SNAP compliance policy was in effect before it was violated?
- Do your employees undergo training in your store to learn about SNAP benefits, and do you furnish a written training guide to every employee?
- Did you yourself, any of your employees or managers or your store profit personally from the abuse of SNAP benefits in any way?
You must come up with thorough answers to all of these questions to begin to even qualify for a civil money penalty in the first place. There are dozens of other questions, each one being more complicated than the one before. Experienced SNAP lawyers can help you to sift through the mountain of paperwork,complete the application for the penalty, and understand the issuance of the notice you’ve received. Ten business days is too little time for you to handle this kind of situation successfully without the help of a lawyer, and improperly handling the application and/or documentation can actually end up in denial of a civil money penalty.
Reticiense about paying out a Civil Money Penalty to the USDA is normal, and it make sense from a business perspective. Under these circumstances, nonetheless, the penalty is the least costly way to get an issue of this magnitude behind you. Abuse of SNAP funds is a serious crime in the eyes of the government, and having your ability to accept SNAP benefits in your store taken away can greatly impact your business finances. This situation can quickly become unaffordable.
For most family grocers, their store is a key source of income for their family and for the families of their employees and managers, which means one cannot afford to have the ability to accept any commonly used method of payment revoked. The time for you to enlist a top notch attorney to come to your aid in this circumstance is the very day a Civil Money Penalty letter arrives in the mail. Do keep in mind that you have only 10 (ten) days to complete the process, which is inconceivable when you have little understanding of what’s being asked of you and what your obligations are.
A well versed SNAP program attorney can help you out by potentially getting the penalty amount reduced, helping you keep your license to accept SNAP benefits intact, and provide you with the ability to continue to operate your business and earn money. Even a brief suspension could cost your business thousands of dollars, and the effects of that suspension can endure much longer if customers opt to go elsewhere once they figure out that you can no longer accept their EBT cards. It is hardly worth the future financial pressure attempt to proceed without an experienced attorney to deal with the legal ramifications of this notice.