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As a retail store owner if you have been qualified for the SNAP and entitled for access to EBT, then you must adhere to the rules and regulations as enforced by USDA through FNS. Failing to comply with any of the rules you are held responsible for any violation occurring in your store.

SNAP Violation Letter

Although it appears to be just like all other letters you receive form Federal agencies and departments in effect its intentions are quite different and precise. When you receive a violation letter you only have 10 days to respond.  You cannot afford to waste any time so the you can do is consult an experienced lawyer on SNAP cases. Do not jeopardize your business. Violations may have occurred by mistake or intentionally either by an employee or the owner, yourself.  On the first page, you see the alleged violation(s) occurred in your store and the monetary penalty or disqualification the USDA is pursuing.  Attached you will also find all the relevant data, transactions EBT records etc. that USDA has compiled to support the alleged violations.

Such violations include:

  • Trafficking SNAP benefits, that is exchanging benefits for cash or drugs and weapons
  • Accepting EBT for the purchase of ineligible items: alcohol, tobacco, cosmetics, medicine, hot (prepared) food which is to be consumed in the store, pet food, household supplies or other services
  • If the EBT benefits exceed the food sales at the store over a specific time
  • Receiving SNAP benefits from an unauthorized person, only entitled members of the same household can use the EBT card or an individual already approved
  • Repeated manual transaction, entering the card number and PIN manually or in the absence of the card holders
  • Repeated “same cent-value” purchases, items of the same price bought in a short period of time with the same EBT card
  • Using the EBT terminal during a suspension period
  • Being disqualified from WIC program (Women, Infants and Children)

These are just some of the possible violations, the list can go on as the circumstances under which violation may occur are endless.

Violation Letter Defense

As said, it is to consult your attorney on SNAP issues. Compile all evidence regarding your store operation, your employee training, your compliance policy all of which needs to be signed and documented prior to the alleged violation(s).  Be as concise and explicit as possible. If the violation happened during your absence, you should prove it and support it. Remember you are held responsible for all that happens at your store 24/7. Provide all transaction data and invoices for that period of time, not just samples. Your documents must be date prior and through the dates of the attached transactions they have.

It is preferable to assign your lawyer to do all the communication with the USDA agent whose name appears on the violation letter.

The SNAP violation Letter gives you10 days from the date you received it to respond if you fail to so within that time limit you may be disqualified from EBT access.  The letter may also state if you qualify for Civil Money Penalty (CMP) which allows you continue accepting SNAP/EBT card. However, if you are charged with a serious violation such as trafficking then a permanent disqualification is on the table.

In the case the USDA believes it was a minor violation based on the data and their investigation on your store, and all the information they have, then they will issue a CMP. Although this may be costly, you will continue to operate your store and accept EBT cards. At all costs, you must defend your case to keep your business. Otherwise a permanent disqualification will have a serious impact on it.  You will not be qualified to have access to EBT, meaning less revenue and loss of business integrity. You are not allowed to sell or transfer the store, and your future employment will suffer, so will your credit line. You will be excluded for the Sales Award Management list (SAM) list, rendering you unable to work for any company dealing with Federal agencies.

The sooner you respond the better.  But always assign your lawyer to handle the case. The lawyer should do all the communication with the USDA as he speaks their language.

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