As a retail food store owner, you will no doubt be aware of the various laws you must adhere to. Your store must sell products that are “fit for purpose” to customers. It must also meet strict guidelines on many topics from food hygiene to staff management.

For the most part, retail food store owners have no issues with the law or their customers. Although, there have been cases in the past where problems occur. One notable example is with SNAP: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

SNAP and the Electronic Benefits Transfer card

SNAP was brought in by the federal government to replace the Food Stamp program in the late 1990s. SNAP provides food-purchasing financial help to people with no or little income. It’s a program that works by giving eligible people an EBT card. The Electronic Benefits Transfer card operates in much the same way as a bank debit card.

Recipients of the card can use it to pay for the food they need for their household. As you can imagine, there are some restrictions on its use. The prime example of what you can’t do with an EBT card is to use it for general spending. For instance, EBT card recipients cannot use it to buy electronic goods.

Holders of the EBT card typically get up to $632 a month if they’re feeding a family of four. Individual benefits are around $189 a month. SNAP is a federal government program that gets implemented at a state level.

Why EBT cards can be a problem for retail store owners

Certain rules govern the use of EBT cards in retail food stores. The U.S. Code (7 U.S.C. Chapter 51) and the Code of Federal Regulations (7 C.F.R. §278) outline the rules and regulations for its use. Enforcement gets carried out by the FNS (Food & Nutrition Service), an agency of the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture).

In most cases, retailers abide by the rules and guidelines set by federal and state laws, but not always. In such events, a retailer will receive a SNAP violation letter from the FNS.

The truth is that some retailers won’t even know they are in violation of SNAP rules. That’s because the problem might be caused by dishonest employees. All SNAP violations are determined by the state. If a retailer receives a Florida SNAP violations letter, it’s often because of the reasons below.

Trafficking

A term that describes when a retailer knowingly accepts fraudulent or stolen EBT cards.

Unqualified Purchases

SNAP EBT cards can only be used to buy food and non-alcoholic drinks that get consumed at home. Unqualified purchases include

  • alcohol and tobacco
  • hot food consumed in the store
  • vitamins and medicine
  • pet food
  • other non-food items and household supplies like soap and paper products

False SNAP applications

An allegation where a retail store submitted false details to the FNS so they can accept EBT cards

Inaccurate coupon accounting

The retailer’s total coupon redemptions are higher than the food sold in a specific time.

Setting up a “tab” in exchange for EBT card benefits

Retailers that let customers buy non-qualifying products using their EBT card benefits.

Disqualification from the WIC program

The FNS may serve a SNAP violation to retailers that get disqualified under the USDA WIC program. WIC stands for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

What should you do if you receive a Florida SNAP violations letter?

Do not panic! It’s important that you contact an experienced SNAP violations attorney. Here at Brandon Legal Group, we can help you with SNAP violations.

When we defend you against SNAP violations, we do so in a three-stage process.

Stage One

The “charging letter” is what the USDA will send you when they try to remove your store’s EBT license.

The letter demands your response within ten days of receiving it. We will take over communication with the USDA on your behalf. That way we can send an accurate and thorough response. If need be, we can also provide evidence to support your defense.

Stage Two

The USDA may reply to our response and still claim that one or more violations have taken place. If that’s the case, we will launch an administrative appeal on your behalf.

Stage Three

Should the USDA refuse to overturn their decision, we can file a judicial review. This review is done in the local Federal District Court.

If you’ve received a charging letter, contact us today to find out how we can help you.

 

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