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Any retailer that accepts EBT payments for the SNAP program is at risk of eventually receiving a SNAP violation letter. If there are any transactions the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA sees as being fraudulent, the letter will come and show hundreds or thousands of transactions. Those the USDA believes are fraudulent will be stressed. When this occurs, the business should immediately contact a SNAP violation defense lawyer to help.
When a business receives a SNAP violation letter, it has up to 10 days to respond. Not responding within that time frame will result in the USDA suspending or terminating the retailer’s ability to be part of the SNAP program. SNAP violation attorneys can help the business to respond to the letter and continue participating in the program.
Understanding SNAP Violations
Although each state has its own SNAP program, the program itself is run by the federal government. SNAP itself is overseen and enforced by the USDA and Food and Nutrition Service or FNS. The list of violations of the program can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations regarding EBT transactions. As per the Code, the government has the right to permanently disqualify any business found to be in violation of the SNAP program from participating in it. Small retailers, in particular, are especially vulnerable to this due to their dependence on the program. If the USDA is investigating businesses that violate the program, it will take action. Businesses are not permitted to sell items such as bongs or reclaim catchers.
FNS Actively Investigates the Compliance of Retailers
An FNS team comprised of 100 people, regularly investigates retailers to ensure that they are in compliance with the SNAP program. The team also analyzes data from retailers across the country and issue fines to those that are found to be in violation of the program. FNS members work alongside state enforcement officers to conduct sting operations as well, in an effort to prevent trafficking.
The federal government also gets involved to prosecute any businesses that have been determined as violating SNAP regulations. In 2012, the FNS investigative team looked at over 15,000 retailers and performed 4,500 sting operations. The end result was that 1,400 retailers were disqualified due to trafficking. If your business is targeted and you have difficulty paying legal fees to your attorney, you can get help from other companies who provide small business financing.
The only retailers that are allowed to accept SNAP are those authorized to do so. In order to ensure compliance with the program, that means certain foods are not included in the program. For example, prepared foods do not qualify. Items such as cigarettes and alcohol are not accepted as part of SNAP. If a retailer does accept items that are not part of the program, it can immediately be disqualified from participating indefinitely.
Possible SNAP Violations
If your store is found to be trafficking food stamps, it means your business will be charged with stealing or fraudulently accepting EBT benefits, which can instantly disqualify it from the SNAP program. The following can result in disqualification:
• Accepting SNAP for items that are not food
• Intentionally falsifying information on an application for EBT
• Total SNAP redemptions for a specific period of time exceed the sale of food
• Accepting SNAP from a person who is not entitled to the benefits
• Offering store credit for EBT
What to Do After You’re Accused
If your business has been accused of violating the SNAP program, you need to immediately consult with an attorney. It’s your best chance of being able to stay in business. Unfortunately, many retailers fail to get the legal assistance they need and pay for it in the end.
Consequences of SNAP Disqualification
Every person in this country should be able to get enough food to eat every single day. State and federal programs ensure that Americans are able to eat. These programs are funded by the state and federal governments. The biggest of these programs is SNAP. The goal is to get food on the table of individuals and families who have financial hardship. Retailers across the country are given the choice of working with the SNAP program. Store owners must know the rules of the program if they participate and must comply with them. They must educate their staff about the rules and ensure they comply with them as well.
If a retailer is in violation of SNAP, it’s rare for a business to be permanently barred from participating. In most cases, officials aim to work directly with retailers. Officials want to ensure that taxpayer money is used correctly and fairly so that people who are hungry are able to eat and have access to healthy foods.
If a business is disqualified, however, that decision cannot be appealed. Retailers that are in this category are put on a specific list.
Handling a SNAP Violation Letter
Retailers who are part of the SNAP program but found to be in violation of it will get a SNAP violation letter. This letter is given by the USDA when a business is deemed to have violated the rules and laws of the program. One or more charges are brought against the retailer that outline the violations. It’s important to have an experienced SNAP violation defense attorney on your side if you have received a violation letter.
Don’t wait to contact a lawyer if your business has been accused of violating the SNAP program. Time is of the essence, which means you should take immediate action. Speak with an attorney at your earliest convenience.
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