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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program often abbreviated as SNAP is a state-sponsored program that offers nutrition assistance and economic benefits to low-income people, families, and communities.
Beneficiaries use the Electronic Benefits Transfer Card (ETB) to access these benefits from selected retail stores that meet certain qualifications. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) works with community players and other state partners to administer the program and ensure that all players abide by the rules to ensure no one rips off the government.
How to prevent SNAP violations
Since there are rules to follow, the natural way to avoid trouble is to knowing the rules. The law holds retailers accountable for violations that happen in stores with or without their knowledge. The steps below go into the details of how to remain on USDA’s good books
• Train staff
• Put compliance policy in place
Train your staff- Untrained staff may not understand how to conduct transactions in accordance with the regulations. So the first step is to do intensive training. The USDA provides training materials to all retailers who receive EBT cards. After the intensive training always keep proof that the training took place. Go a step further and make staff sign documents showing that they have received full training and they are well equipped to conduct themselves in compliance with SNAP regulations.
Put a compliance policy in place- The USDA will want to know if a compliance policy was in writing at your premises before they sent the letter alleging noncompliance. It also shows that your store has taken steps to ensure compliance.
Snap Program violations
The SNAP program seems straightforward at first but many look for ways to make extra bucks and violate its terms in the process. Add the fact that some of the rules are hard to implement, for instance, people who use the EBT cards should not buy electronics.
The USDA receives automatic reports that show the transactions that take place in stores accepting EBT. After reviewing these records, the USDA might detect evidence of noncompliance from the transactions. It will send a letter detailing the alleged violations and attach relevant evidence. On receiving such a letter, you need to respond within ten days with a defense that shows you are in the clear.For this reason, it helps to retain an attorney even before you get that first allegation letter.
The USDA sends the allegation letter with a presumption that you are guilty. So any response should focus on proving that no SNAP violations took place. If the USDA is not satisfied with your response, they’ll reply with another letter that gives a verdict.In case you don’t send a response the USDA will still reach a verdict which will most probably revoke your privileges and even affect future chances of opening another store that accepts EBT cards.
Again, you should file an administrative appeal within ten days. If the USDA upholds its decision, you can file for judicial review at the local Federal District Court
Possible SNAP Violations
Common SNAP violations that can get you in trouble with the USDA include:
• Trafficking- In the SNAP program terminology, trafficking refers to accepting stolen EBT cards. If a customer uses someone else’s EBT card at your store, you might be charged with this offense.
• Inaccurate coupon accounting- If the amount of EBT claims at a given time exceeds the amount of food sold in the same period, you might receive a charge for inaccurate coupon accounting.
• Disqualification from WIC program- Disqualification from the Special Supplemental Program for Women and Children, usually abbreviated as WIC can lead to disqualification from the SNAP program.
• False SNAP application- If your application to accept EBT contains or is deemed to contain false or inaccurate information, you can be barred from the program.
• Unqualified Purchases- EBT cards should only be used for food and non-alcoholic drinks. The store should not let buyers use the cards for any other items or else they’ll be in violation.
Other violations can be blatant cases of fraud like when customers collude with attendants. In all these instances, it is important to ensure you have adequate legal representation to avoid crippling penalties.
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