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Retail store owners must be extremely precautious once they are accepted in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). They should make it their priority to read and be fully informed of all the rules and regulation set by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). They should go online and get updated on all recent reports issued by USDA. The retailer is held solely responsible for all violations that may occur in his store. Permanent disqualification is a serious problem not to be taken lightly
Reasons for Permanent Disqualification
SNAP trafficking is the most common and serious violation. The USDA observes suspicious transactions or movements of exchanging cash for SNAP benefits or other ineligible items. In this case they do not wait, and a violation letter is issued immediately.
Other violations include:
• Accepting SNAP benefits from an unauthorized person
• Accepting SNAP benefits for ineligible items, alcohol, cosmetics, etc.
• Benefit redemptions exceed food sales over a specific time
• Maintaining credit or a tab in exchange of benefits for customers
• Repeated manual transactions with EBT card, it is considered fraud use of cards and PINS
• Repeated “same cent transactions”, that is a number of transactions of the same value
• Spending all SNAP benefits at one particular store within a short time
• Repeated transactions by the same person in short time intervals
• Submitting false information on the application for your acceptance in EBT
• Being disqualified from participating in the WIC (Women Infants and Children) program
Actually the list of possible violations is endless.
When you receive the SNAP violation letter sent by FNS, be sure that the USDA has conducted a thorough investigation, and “ has complied evidence that your firm has violated the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) regulations”.
Responding to the “Violation Letter”
You have just 10 days to prepare and respond. You cannot afford to waste any time but by all means you must afford an experienced SNAP lawyer to take your case. Avoiding permanent disqualification is not easy. With the assistance of your lawyer, compile all the necessary documents, written data, records required. All communication should be through your lawyer, everything is kept in record, so the responses must be accurate as expected by USDA.
Consequences of Permanent Disqualification
The consequences should not be underestimated.
The first and foremost is that FNS will withdraw their SNAP/EBET authorization based on lack of business integrity of the owner. You cannot accept EBT card, therefore losing a substantial amount of your revenue.
You are not allowed to sell or transfer your store or any other store you may own. When you do so, no matter when, how many years after the disqualification, you will receive a Transfer Civil Money Penalty (TCMP) issued by FNS. The amount of the penalty is based on a complicated calculation and in all cases it is a considerable amount, bearing in mind that you do not have your business anymore. It may mean your life-savings.
As a disqualified store owner, you are excluded from the SAM list (General Services Administration’s System for Award Management. What this entails is that store you cannot longer work with any company that deals with the federal agencies. You cannot ask for a loan and it shows up on any checks carried out for credit or violations.
Permanent Disqualification can be avoided
The most secure way to avoid disqualification is to learn the rules and regulations of SNAP and implement them at all times and costs.
Before you hire any of your employees, regardless how well you may know them, the exquisite reference they may have, train them. The EBT training is available, in all forms, through cell phones, web etc. and in many languages. Once the training is completed, do not neglect to have each and every one of your employees sign a written form acknowledging the training and the penalties involved. It will prevent unintentional mistakes that can be costly.
Have a compliance policy in effect, updated and signed by all, at all times. This will qualify you for the Civil Money Penalty (CMP) in lieu of a temporary or permanent disqualification.
SNAP trafficking is the most serious violation other “minor” violations can be just as detrimental to your firm if they are not dealt with properly and promptly. To avoid any possible violation be alert 24/7, be prepared, organized and above all well-informed and updated by checking frequently the USDA posts online. A wise advice would be prior to opening your retail store, hire a professional SNAP lawyer to guide you every step of the way. It is money well-spent, well-invested in the long term.