SNAP 10 (Ten) Day Notification from the USDA - Buffalo Criminal Lawyers
SNAP 10 (Ten) Day Notification from the USDA
One of the department’s greatest ambitions in their regulation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is to guarantee that the families who are eligible are able to get their the food benefits they desperately need and that those funds are deployed solely for their intended mission. Detailed laws have been enacted to oversee the use of SNAP benefits. There is a complex procedure that retail store owners must undergo to gain eligibility before they are issued a license to open their doors to individuals with Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. The licensed businesses generally do their normal daily business without facing legal difficulties in relation to SNAP benefits, but every now and then, an issue will arise. If, by happenstance, such an issue should come to your doorstep, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will put a 10 (ten)-day notice in the mail to your business address. Within the ten day notice period, you have the option of responding to the letter in writing to offer your own interpretation of their charges against you.
Legal Sanctions in SNAP Violation Cases
Were you to overlook responding to the accusations within that 10 (ten) day window, you might wind up putting your EBT privileges in peril of temporary suspension, or in some cases, have them permanently abrogated. There is also a chance you may be charged steep monetary civil fines. The negative effect these sanctions can have on your bottom line, even more so if SNAP purchases account for a principal income stream or your business. The length of time of a temporary suspension is decided by a few criteria. These include a consideration of how many cases you have been implicated in and the extent of the data they have to use as proof of the infractions. Additionally, if you have a history of violations of SNAP legislation (anything greater than two previous cases is considered a history), you can be disqualified by the USDA for longer terms. Temporary disqualification terms start at 6 (six) months and, for some, it can run as long as 5 (five) years.
With regards to civil fines, the top dollar that the Department can charge a business for breaching SNAP laws is $59,000. The fine amount is decided in relation to the amount of revenue you earn from SNAP transactions. Authorities can also weigh the quantity of charges made against you to determine the amount of monetary sanctions.
In the most acute cases, the possibility of getting slapped with criminal charges is a very real threat. Criminal charges as sanctions for SNAP violations are generally hard to come by. For the most part this does not happen unless the amount of money involved in the violation is exceedingly great.
Quite often, business owners are completely unaware of any transactions completed by their workers that were done intentionally or unintentionally against SNAP rules. This can be the case when the owner provides insufficient training of staff or no SNAP-specific training at all. Indeed, some cases are marred by an employee who intentionally participated in illegal transactions or activities behind the proprietor’s back.
To evade the chance of being unceremoniously barred from EBT licensure in the event that your employees mess up, it is quite critical that you do your best to provide a complete training in every aspect of the ways in which to handle SNAP transactions to every employee – especially your cashiers. Be diligent about recording their training in writing in case you need evidence down the line. Your exhaustive documentation of this effort could be the key to keeping you in business and avoiding losing your store, even if your case ends with a conviction and you have to pay a fine. In store compliance procedures should have been implemented prior to the date that any USDA charges have been brought against you. The only way you can use this as undeniable evidence is if you maintain dated logs in which every staff member and trainer who was involved signs and dates when the training was given. Your training log entries would have to clearly display when the employees were finished training, and each of them needs to have signed to that effect. The log should also contain a sort of play-by-play or outline of exactly what they were taught about when and how to accept and process EBT card transactions. If you sold things like indian spices, then you should be fine.
Instead of attempting to design and conduct this training yourself, thereby running the risk of possibly neglecting relevant information, you can enlist the services of a specialist lawyer in New York SNAP law to bring in a curriculum and do the training for you. Such experienced lawyers can execute very reliable compliance programs. This wise prevention step will assist your attorneys in the future if they need evidence to build a solid defense for you against a violation notice.
Be advised that the authorities will disregard the fact that you may not have been onsite when the egregious actions were allegedly taken by someone who works for you. You are, nevertheless, fully accountable for any violations that were committed in the business place bearing your name, and the most you may have the fortune of getting is a lower probability of having your EBT license revoked. On the positive side, your chances of winding up with a suspension from the SNAP program are a whole lot less if neither you nor the management of the business directly benefited from the violations.
From the day a violation notice shows up, it is crucial to contact a specialist attorney right away to put together and send out a response to the USDA within their tiny time limit.
Some Situations that can Draw SNAP Violation Charges
Numerous reasons exist for why you may find yourself looking at a SNAP charge letter from USDA. Trafficking is one of the the primary reasons. This covers a lot of ground but, for instance, iif you or someone working at your store intentionally sells to individuals who are paying with a fraudulently procured EBT card. The use of stolen EBT cards is also classed as trafficking.
Grocery stores are also not allowed to sell specific unqualified items to people paying only with an EBT card. There is a complete itemization of foods and non-alcoholic drinks that can be purchased using these cards. Conversely, using EBT cards to purchase heated foods that are supposed to be eaten in the store is a SNAP violation. Also, certain grocery products, including cigarettes, alcohol, medications, and non-human foods (such as pet food) are all on that list of items that must never be bought or sold using SNAP benefits. A wide range of food that is intended for human consumption and sold in such a form so consumers will need to prepare and consume it at home are included in the itemization of items that a SNAP recipient can buy with their EBT card.
A few grocers got letters in the mail because they furnished inaccurate details on their applications to obtain the USDA’s approval as a SNAP retailer. For authorization, the first stage is to get yourself an FNS number. To get one, you need to sell food for preparation and consumption at home. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) also mandates registered retailers to stock items in at least three of these four food categories:
- Dairy Products
- Fruits and Vegetables
Perishability is a factor. Ths is defined for these purposes, as foods that will spoil in a maximum of three weeks. In addition, a minimum of 50 (fifty) percent of the store’s total sales receipts must consist of staple foods that qualify for EBT card purchases. Once again, ready-made foods are not counted as staple foods for the purposes of the SNAP program are forbidden. The food purchases have to be sold for preparation at home. A donut shop, for instance, would not qualify for an FNS number. Restaurants also would not be considered eligible as an EBT business. When the owner of a grocery store applies for a license to conduct sales using SNAP benefits, they are required to remit numerous details about the store and how it meets these obligations. In addition, they would need to give the USDA up-to-date information on the store names, address, store type, hours of operation, annual sales, and the personal information of the owner. The owner’s personal information the USDA wants to see include their social security number and home address.
Being completely accurate about fulfilling all of the above requirements and their accompanying definitions will keep you from the burden of submitting inaccurate information to the FNS for qualification.
The USDA is vigorously pursuing and targeting business owners who are violating SNAP rules. Customarily, the owners of targeted grocery stores and markets will get a notice 10 (ten) days before USDA takes any action against them. Inside this window of time, the business owner has their chance to send in their version of the charges and offer defenses. Such violations can get you, at the very worst, permanently suspended from EBT, especially if you or any of your store managers benefited directly from the violations. You are likely, on the lower end, pay some fines, and still continue to conduct your business. Your wisest move is to converse with an attorney and enlist them to come in and do a thorough training and, if you ever receive a letter, to put forth a defense on your behalf.