The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a significant source of income for many retailers across US. Its purpose is to assist the low-income citizens to afford nutritious foods for their household. This is carried out through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Initially it offered ‘food stamps’ but now it is provided through an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, (EBT). This was put into effect as to avoid any form of fraud.
Still, some employees or unfortunately even retailers manage to abridge the regulations. Violations of any kind may lead to serious consequences, not only to civil money penalty (CMP) but also to temporary or permanent disqualification from any EBT transactions. Such an event will harm your business not only financially but your reputation as well.
Small retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores even gas stations are constantly being checked by the USDA for any act of violation. As it is almost impossible for business men to keep track of all actions and possible ‘frauds’ that may occur at any time, it is wise to have an experienced SNAP lawyer for your business, someone who will be there at any time the need calls.
The most common form of snap violation is exchanging SNAP benefits for cash or non-eligible products. One must bear in mind that only food product that can be taken home to be prepared and cooked can be purchased with snap benefits, nothing else not even shampoo or cosmetics for example. According to the Code of Federal Regulations one is not permitted to buy tobacco products, alcohol, household items, pre-prepared convenience foods, pet food medicine, vitamins or gasoline . Thus, if you allow the EBT card holder to purchase such items then you commit fraud and should expect to face the consequences.
However, there are other ways snap fraud may be committed. This is why the retailer must be vigilant over every move his/her employees make! For instance, a cashier may use a customer’s EBT card for a purchase of $200 and give the customer change of $100 in cash, in other words charge him with transaction that he did not make.. Eventually such transactions will appear in unbalanced accounts which will arouse suspicions to USDA and create a serious problem for the user as well.
It is important all employees to be properly trained, all their training should be in written form and signed by them. This can eliminate some violations due to ignorance such as allowing the customer to purchase ineligible items using snap benefits.
As a professional and reputable retailer you must not engage in accepting snap benefits before having proper authorization. If you own more than one store, make sure that you have a permit for each store separately permits cannot be transferred or shared between locations and owners.
It is forbidden to keep customer’s EBT cards and PIN numbers or accept phone orders, something that may enable a senior citizen to purchase foods more conveniently. For example, you can’t be selling illegal drugs like magic mushrooms. Such actions although they mean well can lead to serious fines and penalties.
According to federal law, a snap authorized retailers is held fully responsible for any illegal transaction carried out by his employees, even if that occurred during his absence. The retailer may face even permanent disqualification of his store or any other store he owns or plans to open in the future, or even his attempt to sell/transfer his store will be regarded as an attempt to avoid disqualification. Retailers running a store in low-income areas must be more than careful when accepting an EBT for payment, as employees have close relations with locals and sometimes they experience a lot of peer pressure resulting in ‘trafficking’.
How to prevent snap violations
Managing your retail business in the most lawful way may not be enough security. As a retailer you will always be held responsible for any form of violations 24/7. The answer to this, is simple train all your employees. Regardless how well you may know them, what reference they may have, no one should ever be allowed to start work at your store prior to a strict training. Every employee must know all the specific rules that must be followed accurately, especially the cashier before dealing with EBT payments. Once their training is completed they must sign a form of acknowledgment before they start their work at your store. Having a document verifying the training each employee received in advance can make a whole big difference if you ever get a snap Violation Letter.
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