The cost of living in the United States is high in many places, and millions of families struggle to make ends meet each day. They cannot afford to put food on the table and care for their families despite working full-time or receiving disability benefits for their families. It’s a very real struggle millions face each day, though many people are unwilling to discuss their financial issues with people they know. SNAP is a program designed by the federal government to provide nutrition assistance to families who haven’t enough money to properly provide nutrition to their families.
SNAP is the largest of the programs the USA has to help feed the hungry and provide the proper nutrition to children and families from low-income situations. The purpose is to provide those who work and simply cannot make ends meet a chance to feed their families so no one goes hungry. However, it’s not uncommon for both stores who accept SNAP and families who receive it to lie on their applications to receive free money and benefits from the program. If you are a store who takes SNAP benefits and you receive a SNAP Civil Money Penalty in the mail, it’s time to pay attention and take notice.
What is a Civil Money Penalty?
In essence, the SNAP civil money penalty is a violation letter outlining penalties a business owes for doing improper business and benefitting from the acceptance of SNAP benefits. When a letter like this arrives in the mail to any business owner, it means serious business and it means getting help from an attorney right away. It’s a criminal offense to profit from SNAP benefits, and you can be heavily fined and punished for this act.
Essentially, when the United States Department of Agriculture believes your store is profiting or benefitting in any way from the improper use of SNAP benefits your customers bring in, they send you a letter with two options. You can respond to the letter inside the 10 days you’re issued to pay a penalty and keep your store’s SNAP benefits, or you can ignore the letter and see your store’s SNAP acceptance ability is taken from you.
You have 10 days to respond to this letter. There is not an extension process. There is no exception to this rule. The USDA wants your answer, which is whether you’re going to pay the penalty to keep your license to accept SNAP benefits or not.
Why bother with a civil money penalty?
What some business owners want to know is why they should pay a fine for this rather than face suspension of their SNAP acceptance abilities. The answer is fairly simple. Millions of dollars are spent each year through the use of SNAP benefits. When your store is no longer able to accept SNAP benefits from your customers, you lose customers. Millions of people are unable to pay for their groceries and needs with their own cash, and your inability to accept their financial assistance for food means you’re not getting their business anymore.
The financial ramifications of a suspended SNAP benefits acceptance are far more expensive for most businesses than paying a fine. However, you might not know how to handle the letter, how to pay the fine, or what to do when a letter arrives in the mail. This is especially true if you aren’t sure why you’re receiving the letter in the first place. This is why calling a criminal attorney cannot wait another day.
How an Attorney Can Help
SNAP civil money penalties are far from easy to understand. The number of requirements, stipulations, and rules associated with this are far too many for the average person to comprehend in 10 days or less without legal knowledge.
Does your store have a SNAP compliance policy? Can you prove it was in effect before it was violated? Is there a training program your store has for employees regarding SNAP benefits as well as a written training guide for all employees? Did your store or any of your employees directly benefit from the misuse of SNAP benefits in any way?
These are all questions you must be able to answer to qualify for a civil money penalty. There are dozens more, and each one is more complex than the one before. An attorney can help you sort through the paperwork, the application for the penalty, and the issuance of the notice you’ve received. Ten business days is not enough time to handle this kind of situation without the help of an attorney, and mishandling the application and/or paperwork can result in denial of a civil money penalty.
It might sound as though you don’t want to pay a penalty, which does make sense. In this situation, however, the penalty is the least expensive way to handle an issue of this magnitude. It’s a serious crime to misuse SNAP benefits, and losing your ability to accept SNAP benefits in your store can cause your business to suffer financially. This can quickly become unaffordable.
Your store is your business, which means you cannot afford to lose your ability to accept specific methods of payment. It’s time for you to call an attorney to help you with this situation when it arrives in the mail. Remember you have 10 days to get through the process, which is not easy when you don’t understand what’s being asked of you and what’s required.
An experienced SNAP attorney can help you lessen penalties, keep your SNAP benefits acceptance, and continue to work and make money. Even a short suspension can cost your business financially, and the effects of that short suspension can last a lifetime if customers choose to go elsewhere after realizing you can no longer accept their payments. It’s not worth the future financial trouble of not hiring an experienced attorney to handle the legal ramifications of this notice.
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