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SNAP DISQUALIFICATION RETAILER DEFENSE
The purpose of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is to help low-income citizens afford nutritious food for their household. These benefits, however, can only be used at authorized grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores for the purchase of eligible food items thus, bringing in a significant amount of revenue.
Therefore, to avoid disqualification from (SNAP) the retailer must take all necessary precautions. In order to manage such a case successfully you need to be well prepared and organized. Permanent disqualification is a serious matter for any retail business. Its consequences have a long lasting impact on the business and the owner. It brings financial loss as well as damage to the retailer’s reputation even if the store is sold afterwards the retailer receives a Transfer Civil Money Penalty (TCMP). Therefore, it is important to always consult your lawyer about all your business moves in advance to avoid costly mistakes.
Types of SNAP violations
The most common form of violations include:
• Food stamp trafficking. That is accepting EBT benefits for items such as cigarettes, alcohol and various household supplies or cosmetics since only some items are eligible for SNAP benefits. Pre-prepared foods, ready-to-eat food are not eligible under SNAP regulations.
• Trafficking in SNAP benefits includes exchanging for cash, giving back cash change. This may be in the form of cash back on a SNAP purchase or the sale or purchase of an EBT card.
• Credit payment or inventory purchases with EBT benefits
• Reciprocal disqualifications from Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
Such activities occur for numerous reasons. Employees themselves may be buying and selling EBT benefits to earn extra cash. Others did not have all the required training as to avoid costly mistakes. These can be prevented with training and a thorough compliance policy.
What to watch out for
USDA will take action and enforce a ‘Charge Letter’ upon noticing some suspicious transactions. Some may be:
• A large number of manual transactions with EBT card as an indication of fraud use of EBT cards and PINS.
• Repeated “same-cent transactions” that is number of transactions of the same value although it may be due to the sales of the store
• If in a long term the amount of EBT card transactions do not balance with the accounts of food items sold
• Spending of practically all the SNAP benefits within a short time at one particular store
• Repeated transactions by the same household in short period of time
When such inconsistencies come to light and especially, if they are repeated then USDA issues the “charge letter”, sent by the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) agents, outlining the allegations against you. It’s important to take action as soon as possible upon receiving the letter. You must respond within 10 days of the date that you received it. Otherwise, the USDA will disqualify you for EBT transactions. You should protect your business by taking strategic action following your lawyer’s consultation. The allegations presented in the letter are drawn after careful consideration of all the transaction patterns and available data. It is clearly stated in the FNS letter there is “compiled evidence that your firm has violated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations. USDA is not flexible when violations have occurred they are determined to grant you a permanent disqualification. Avoiding a permanent disqualification is not an easy case. You must act immediately because you have very little time. Consult your lawyer, find out what needs to be explained based on the evidence they have. Compile all the necessary documents, written data, records, etc. all the solid evidence that is required. It is vital to provide them with the specific documents and correct responses expected in order to defend your case successfully. Your lawyer wull be of great assistance to manage all this.
Knowing the Consequences
A permanent disqualification may mean the end of your business and your credit history. You lose your EBT authorization that resulting in valuable loss of revenue. But it is not only the financial loss for your business, you personally will suffer and your reputation will too. You will be excluded from the System for Awards Management list (SAM). It will be extremely difficult to get a job that deals with the federal government, to get a bank loan, and good credit history. You will not be able to sell or transfer your store, at any time in the future you will receive the TCMP (Transfer Civil Money Penalty) which you will eventually have to pay.
Taking all into consideration, stay vigilant, avoid at all means permanent disqualification. The way to defend your case successfully is with the assistance of an experienced lawyer on SNAP issues