The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) is the nation’s largest food program, with more than $68 billion dollars going out to 42 million needy families every year. As an authorized SNAP retailer, you are entrusted with making sure every EBT point-of-sale transaction is done by the book.
But mistakes are bound to happen and unfortunately, a lot of unsuspecting business owners are contacted by the USDA about possible SNAP fraud and threatened with SNAP disqualification.
SNAP Violations & Penalties
Have you just received a charge letter from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) accusing you of trafficking—the buying or selling unauthorized food items or trading SNAP benefits for cash? You may wonder why the government is coming after your small business and not after the problem customers who intentionally break the rules. (The same confusing rules also state that retailers usually lack the authority to deny food to SNAP customers!)
The Federal government admits that 98% of all people who buy food with SNAP benefits are receiving their benefits legitimately. Enforcement efforts are directed at authorized SNAP retailers instead of individual recipients.
The difference comes down to legal rights. Individuals are legally entitled to receive SNAP benefits while retailers are granted the privilege of transacting benefits in exchange for authorized food items. In legal terms, FNS has a greater burden of proof to restrict the benefits of SNAP recipients.
FNS employs nationwide teams of Federal analysts to ensure retailers are following the rules to prevent trafficking. These enforcement efforts include conducting undercover investigations at retailers and auditing EBT transaction records. FNS makes their activities public by publishing all Final Agency Decisions on the internet, which can hurt your business’ reputation if uncontested sanctions remain on your record.
What About Honest Mistakes?
A recent government study shows that trafficking by retailers is rare. In that same report, the government publicly recognized that “errors are not the same as fraud.”
One common error performed by authorized SNAP retailer employees is unknowingly allowing unauthorized purchases with SNAP benefits (such as hot foods and some energy drinks). Including sales tax in SNAP benefits purchases is also another common retailer error.
Errors by authorized SNAP retailers are usually caused by the lack of compliance training, the lack of attention to regulations, and the poor supervision of retail employees. As a SNAP retailer, you are legally responsible for everything that happens in your business, including the actions of everyone who works in the store—even unpaid family members. Keeping good training records is critical to demonstrating you have done all you can do to safeguard your business.
Call a Lawyer if You Received a Charge Letter
Have simple errors caused you to receive a charge letter? Did an employee make a mistake, or was this a customer error that was not noticed by your employee? Don’t respond to any charge letter on your own!
Call an experienced SNAP benefits attorney today to help defend your business against false accusations of trafficking. At Fienmen Defense, we can represent you and help you maintain your livelihood as an authorized SNAP retailer while you serve your community.
Contact us for a free consultation. Call (215) 839-9529 or contact us online.