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As a grocery store owner, you face many challenges in your daily life. The last thing you need is to be told by that you have violated the regulations that govern SNAP. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and it is they who will send you the notice.
You must respond to a SNAP violation notice within 10 days. If you do not do so, the USDA will suspend your store’s privilege to accept Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) payments. Depending on where your store is located this could be a heavy blow. But even if your bottom line is not so heavily dependent on EBT you do not want to risk the reputation of your brand or endure any further sanctions by local or federal government agencies.
The moment you get a SNAP violation notice you should contact an attorney. It is best to contact a lawyer that specializes in defending clients who have been accused by the government of violating SNAP rules and protocols.
The initial letter you receive will contain a number of pages in which specific transactions took place that the USDA claims violates SNAP rules. Other statements that detail how you have broken the rules will also be included. SNAP violations include:
-Taking part in the theft or fraudulent trafficking of SNAP benefits
-Allowing a customer to use EBT to purchase alcohol, tobacco, or other banned goods
-Redeeming more EBT credits than you actually sold
-Accepting SNAP benefits from a person not authorized to have them
You may be confused and puzzled as to how any of this could have happened in your store. Do not panic. Being suspected of doing something wrong does not actually mean you’ve done something wrong.
The SNAP program is one of the many needful programs that help low-income people feed their families. The EBT system replaced paper food stamps back in the 1990s and has proven to be a much more efficient and effective way of meeting this aim. It has certainly saved grocers like yourself a great deal of headache, in that it substantially reduces fraud.
However, SNAP rules and regulations are not always clear. You may have made a point of training all of your store employees on how to deal with SNAP beneficiaries and given thorough lessons in what is and is not acceptable. It is nevertheless difficult to meet all of the demands issued by the USDA. You should keep in mind that you are not the first honest and forthright grocer who has been charged with SNAP violation.
The SNAP violation lawyer you hire will answer the USDA’s letter on your behalf. Indeed, the lawyer you enlist can handle all the correspondence between you and the USDA. There may have been specific circumstances related to the violations cited by the feds. Store clerks can make honest mistakes, there is all kinds of room for misunderstanding when it comes to EBT and SNAP benefits, or it may be a case of ambiguity and vagueness in the USDA’s regulations. For example, if your clerk sells non-EBT covered items, such as e-liquids, tobacco, bongs, etc, you could get sued. Your lawyer will be able to answer the department’s letter in a way that explains what actually happened and maintains your innocence in the charge.
The USDA will review this letter, but may decide to pursue their case. They may insist that you have violated their policy, and that you should have your privileges revoked. If that happens, they will send you another letter informing you of their decision to suspend your EBT privileges or completely disqualify your store from participating in the SNAP program.
At that point, your legal team will send a letter informing them of your intention to appeal their decision. Your lawyers will gather all the necessary evidence and documentation needed to carry out an appellate brief. If this does not work, you have the option of taking the USDA to court and working to have the decision changed by a local federal judge.
Throughout this process your criminal attorney will be there for you. The nature and dynamics of federal law concerning EBT and SNAP benefits can be complex. That is why you should put your trust only in those attorneys who through long experience have gained the knowledge and insight needed to get you justice.
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