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When business owners accept electronic benefits transfer (EBT) as a form of payment in their grocery stores, there is a chance the United States Food and Drug Administration (USDA) will send an official notice to them stating they violated the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). The notice will include documentation that is attached to the SNAP violation notice, which will have evidence of transactions at the store that violated SNAP. If retailers receive a SNAP violation letter they should contact an attorney immediately. There is a time limit of 10 days for individuals to respond to the letter, so acting swiftly is of the upmost importance. When individuals fail to respond, the store will no longer be able to accept EBT as a form of payment.
The SNAP Program
SNAP is a program that provides underprivileged families a set amount of money each month for food, which is provided through an EBT card that works like a debit card. However, individuals who receive SNAP benefits are not able to receive cash back or use the card in fraudulent ways. The program is operated by the federal government.
SNAP violations occur when a retail store is in violation of one of the following rules:
The business accepted EBT payment fraudulently or took part in the theft of SNAP benefits.
The place of business allowed SNAP payment for items such as, tobacco or alcohol, which are nonfoods and not approved for the program.
False information was submitted on a grocery store application for EBT benefit approval.
The store accepted EBT payment from an individual who was not permitted to use the benefits.
Proper Defense to a SNAP Violation Notice
It is imperative to get a law firm that has experience handling SNAP violation notice letters. A law firm with SNAP violation experience understands all the phases of the process.
The USDA takes the initial steps to suspend EBT benefits by sending a SNAP violation letter. Because an individual only has 10 days to respond, an experienced law firm can take action quickly and prepare a response letter to the USDA. However, the USDA may still feel the retailer is in violation of SNAP after the response letter is submitted. In this circumstance, the USDA will send a letter that details the reasons for the continued suspension or disqualification of participating in the program.
When the USDA will not change the decision to suspend participation, a Judicial review can be filed with the Federal Court. Although this is a federal case, it will be handled in the same manner as a typical court case, which means there will be a process of discovery, motions, and the trial.
Violations of SNAP
It is important for grocery store business to adhere to all the rules and regulations that are required to participate in the program. Although most retailers don’t have problems adhering to the rules, they can be confusing. If the laws are violated, then the USDA will probably issue a violation letter. The consequences of violating SNAP rules can result in significant penalties. When a retailer is accused of a significant violations, it can result in permanent disqualification of the program. In most situations, grocery retailers are not aware the violated the program rules. There are many instances when business owners are unaware their employees are purposefully violating the rules.
It is important to note that a retailer only has 10 days to respond to a violation letter. When an individual fails to respond, the court will still issue a verdict. When this occurs, it is likely that store owners will be found guilty because they are not there to defend themselves. When the court finds a retailer guilty, it can have significant penalties such as permanent disqualification from the program and thousands of dollars in fines. A store must have a compliance policy in writing, which will be reviewed by the USDA. The policy has to be in place when the violation letter was issued.
In addition, the USDA will look for signs of fraud and if the store owner knew the violation occurred. When store managers were involved, it could result in disqualification. If a store is found guilty of violating the rules, it could lead to a disqualification of up to five years. Because so many individuals in the United States rely on SNAP benefits, disqualification from the program can lead to a significant loss to revenue.
An awesome firm that truly cares about you. I thought I could handle the USDA on my own, but failed. Todd intervened and helped fix my mistakes.- Denton, CLIENT Denton