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10 Day Notice from USDA SNAP EBT

Retailers who accept EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer)Cards as payment for goods at some point are likely to receive a “Notice of SNAP Violation” From the United States Department of Agriculture. Such a notice is usually the first indication that the retailer might have violated the rules for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The SNAP program is funded through and administered by the USDA. When a SNAP violation notice is received, the retailer should contact our law firm without delay. Our law firm is skilled in responding to SNAP Violation notices and all aspects of litigation which may result. Failure to have a qualified and skilled response to the SNAP violation notices is fraught with danger for the retailer.

These dangers include, but are not limited to:
a. Losing the right to raise a valid defense to the alleged violations;
b. Failing to have a timely response to the SNAP violation notice filed on the retailer’s behalf;
c. Having a determination or finding that the alleged violations are true without proper defenses being raised;
d. Losing any leverage which might be available to enter into a negotiated resolution;
e. Losing the right to a full hearing before an administrative law judge for failure to properly and timely preserve all issues for review;

Alleged violations will be documented with dates and types of violations. SNAP violations may range from the simple (an ineligible item was paid for inadvertently with an EBT card during the purchase of a group of eligible items) to the very serious (allegations of fraudulent conduct). In either extreme, the USDA is charged by Congress with upholding and enforcing the laws and rules governing the SNAP program and punishing those who violate those laws and rules. The USDA takes SNAP violations seriously and rigorously pursues any cases they can find. What this means to the retailer who has become a target is that the USDA intends to make an example of violators by assessing harsh penalties which may appear to far exceed the harm alleged. As a result, the consequences for a retailer can be disastrous. Penalties may range from the levying of thousands of dollars in fines against the retailer and also include suspension from the EBT/SNAP program for a period of years or even permanent disqualification from the program.

If the retailer has received a SNAP violation notice, they need to understand that this is different from a summons to appear in court. This is considered an “Administrative” proceeding. In Administrative proceedings, the rules are much more strict that those which govern civil or criminal court proceedings. Although the matter may eventually progress to litigation with discovery (interrogatories, depositions and production of documents), hearings and motions, one misstep, one missed deadline (for any reason) and the opportunity to fight the accusation can be lost forever. Therefore, it is necessary to get lawyers who are familiar with SNAP violations and the administrative process on board as soon as possible.

Upon receipt of a SNAP violation notice, the retailer should preserve any and all documents and records, whether on paper or in electronic form. Many a case is lost because of failure to secure and preserve documents which support a valid defense. The retailer should not be concerned with whether their records contain any information which is detrimental-loss or destruction of records just makes things worse.
The retailer should not attempt to interview or take statements from employees who may have knowledge of the circumstances. This is a job for skilled interviewers such as our law firm who know how to obtain statements without being accused of obstructing justice.

Our law firm has extensive experience in representing retailers who have been issued SNAP violation notices. We can even help you get funding while SNAP is no longer being processed thanks to our relationship with DelanceyStreet.com, a hard money lender – who will lend against the value of your store. We are familiar with the laws, regulations and rules which govern these proceedings. We are fully able to represent and do represent retailers regardless of which state they may be located. In short, we understand and know the system for getting the best result possible under the circumstances.

The retailer needs to understand that a SNAP violation notice is serious business but help is available to keep it from becoming a disaster.

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Spodek Law Group

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