USDA SNAP Retailer Reauthorization

Grocery store owners who are currently authorized in the SNAP program are required to undergo a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP reauthorization every five years. The reason behind this requirement  is to decide on your continued eligibility to receive SNAP payments at your store.  If you fail to get re-authorized, you lose out on your EBT sales.  If you wish to maintain the ability to accept EBT at your store,  get us involved in your upcoming reauthorization. 

With the passage of time, the USDA has revamped the authorization qualifications for the SNAP program. You should never assume that because your store previously qualified that you will easily gain eligibility again.  On the contrary, the USDA has been looking to reduce the count of authorized small business SNAP retailers.  Some ways in which the FNS has worked to achieve this include placing tighter inventory mandates and limiting access to fish and meat vendors. On-site FNS inspectors and field officers often pop up at  stores in search of excuses to deny their reauthorizations.  In the aftermath, the reauthorization procedure is far more tedious than it ever was. Nowadays, to be eligible for reauthorization, your Indian grocery store must measure up to the long list of requirements in so called Criterion A or B:

Criterion A

An eligible grocery store is one that consistently keeps stock of at least 7 (seven) varieties of food items in each of the 4 (four) staple food categories on its shelves.  Included in these 7 (seven) varieties there has to be at least one perishable (fresh, frozen or refrigerated) product. A minimum depth of stock of 3 stocking units is required for each variety.  The 4 (four) staple food categories include:

  • Vegetables/Fruits,
  • Dairy (the trickiest SNAP authorization category),
  • Breads/Cereal, and
  • Meat/Poultry/Fish

 

Criterion B

More than 50% of their total gross retail sales must be in staple foods for a grocer to meet the Criterion B standard.  Heated foods or those that were prepared on-site (no matter what their temperature was at the time of sale) cannot be included in the sales.  Additionally, if more than 50% of a business’s total gross sales are in heated or prepared foods that are not for the purpose of preparation and/or consumption at home, the USDA classifies the business as a restaurant.  This includes food prepared on-site and sold for carryout.

 

A Thorough Guide to the SNAP Reauthorization Process

As the time approaches, you will get a “re-authorization” letter in the mail at your business address. A code provided in the letter will enable you to continue the process on the USDA’s website. The letter will explain to you how to start the application process.  The USDA no longer handles paper applications; everything is web-based. They give you 30 (thirty) days to complete your application.

When you submit your completed application, the USDA will ask you for supporting documentation.  What documentation they request is unique for every business.  These are some documents they often request: 

  • an affidavit stating that the current owners/members/officers of the store are not connected with any previously disqualified SNAP persons and reporting any criminal convictions and/or license revocations; 
  • the store’s bank details and signature card; 
  • copies of all current business licenses; 
  • personal and business tax returns.

Often, the first request the USDA sends for documentation will be followed by a request for revenue verification.  The program specialist reviewing your application at the USDA needs to see if you sell more hot/takeout food than you should to qualify for reauthorization.  They might want you to submit  tax filings, invoice records, sales records, and bills of sale.  If your records reveal that the majority of your food sales are heated, your application will be denied.

In the event that your sales meet the USDA criteria, their next step is to evaluate your inventory.  Primarily, the way they get this done is by conducting an inspection of your store conducted by the USDA.  If the survey demonstrates that your store’s inventory misses the mark, they can get the chance to give their inventory records to the USDA for inspection.  Other documents that can help include supplier invoices, grocery receipts and records of food purchases.  These items are good forms of evidence to show the USDA that you ordered and received enough of the required staple foods within 21 days prior to the store visit.

The next step beyond the USDA evaluation of your revenue and inventory is their decision letter.  Receiving a reauthorization marks the end of the process ends.  On the other hand, if you get denied SNAP reauthorization, you have the right to appeal the decision. In some cases, you would be able to re-apply immediately, and under other circumstances you might be required to  wait six months or more.  In the worst case scenario, they can move to permanently reject your application.

What Options do I Have if My SNAP Reauthorization Was Denied?

You Have the Option of a SNAP Retailer License Appeal

Your Decision Letter may state that the USDA has decided to withdraw your store’s license to participate in SNAP.  This letter will arrive as part of a package delivered by UPS.  If you receive such a letter, which is sometimes referred to as a Denial Letter and details the withdrawn status of your reauthorization application, you should:

  • Look through everything and see if the decision is permanent.  If it is, you can think about appealing otherwise you will remain unlicensed without the right to reapply.
  • In the event that your denial is temporary, figure out if your grocery store can hold out over the re-application timeframe.  In cases where SNAP sales account for a small amount of your total sales and the timeframe is six months or less, you will likely make it through.  If SNAP sales in your store make up as much as 50% or more of your total sales, you would be better off filing an administrative review.
  • Round up all of your files and get on the phone with someone at our office to set up your free consultation. Your lawyer can handle all your filing, briefing and communicating with the USDA.  He or she will also explain to you whether an appeal would likely be successful or not.

 

Denial can be the result of a determination by a Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) agent who conducted an onsite inspection that your store failed to meet the stocking requirements listed in Criterion A, or that, after your documents were reviewed, you did not satisfy the Criterion B sales requirements.  If this has happened, you will be unable to apply for SNAP authorization again for a minimum of six months, which can be a big blow to many proprietors.

 

You have only 10 (ten) days from the date the decision letter comes to file your administrative review request.  No need to panic – if you reach out to our firm right away we may be able to work with you on your filing.  Our attorneys can fight your case for you and furnish all the necessary documents and evidence for the win.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q – Does my EBT machine get turned off the moment I get the withdrawal letter?

A – Effective the date of your store’s withdrawal, you are no longer authorized to take EBT card payments.  If you should choose to file for an administrative review of the withdrawal, the USDA will allow you to take SNAP benefit payments at your grocery store while you await the final agency decision.  

Q – How can I resume taking SNAP benefits again if I got a permanent denial?

A – If you do not file an appeal quickly and accurately, you may not ever regain the EBT license you lost.  There have been cases in which our office was able to assist clients in getting back EBT reauthorization after a denial, but each case is different.  The bette way to get your cases assessed by us is to fill out our intake form (below) and get your free consultation to get an idea of what could potentially be done.

Q – My grocery store does not have the point of sale machine for EBT cards. Is reauthorization still a possibility for me?

A – At the time of this writing, this was indeed possible, although that may be different by the time you are reading this. Right now, the USDA is working to launch new regulations in which stores would be required to have computerized point-of-sale machines in place.  Nevertheless, if you are equipped to take debit card payments, your merchant services provider would be your best point of contact for this.

Sign Up for Your Free SNAP Reauthorization Denial Consultation

SNAP retailers can have a free consultation with us on their matters involving SNAP program retailer applications.  Due to the fact that the SNAP retailer requirements have evolved to be so much more tedious, we believe it is best for grocers to work with an attorney to handle their matters.  So many times has the USDA claimed that they never got sufficient documentation from a business owner, or that they could not process an application. These claims are usually untrue, but when a SNAP retailer is unrepresented, one can be victimized and forced to reapply.  For your free legal consultation, fill out the form below.