If you’re like most retailers, you depend on accepting SNAP benefits for a good portion of your sales. In turn, your customers depend on you to accept these benefits, so that they can buy the things that they need for their families. Whether you’re trying to accept SNAP for the first time or you’re accused of violating SNAP rules, there are a number of ways that we help clients who need to address SNAP rules and regulations.
Applying for SNAP
You may need help preparing an application to accept SNAP at your establishment. We can help you prepare your application and gather supporting documentation. Whether you’re just beginning the process or you’ve received a disappointing rejection letter, we can help you make the application process as smooth as possible.
Once you’re up and running, there are specific things that you need to do in order to stay in compliance with SNAP regulations. From using the right equipment to keeping records, there are a number of things that you need to do in order to do everything correctly. Complying means having a written SNAP policy in place before you’re accused of a violation. It means taking the time to train employees to make sure they accept benefits properly. We can help you make sure that you’re taking all of the necessary steps to avoid adverse action from the government and stay in business.
If the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) believes that you’ve failed to comply with SNAP requirements, they may try to ban you from accepting SNAP. They may base their allegations on a review of data or an investigation. A first violation can prevent you from accepting snap for six months to as long as five years. In some cases, your disqualification may be permanent.
The FNS may choose to issue a fine rather than disqualify you from participation. This might happen if FNS believes that your disqualification would result in difficulties for people who depend on your establishment’s participation in the program. Whatever the charge and possible penalties, it’s critical to address the allegations against you and fight them aggressively.
When FNS believes that you’ve violated SNAP rules, they start by sending you a charging letter. This letter details the allegations against you. It’s important that you contact an experienced SNAP violation lawyer as soon as you receive the letter, because you have only ten days to challenge the allegations.
Not only do you have a very limited period of time in order to challenge the allegations, you must supply detailed evidence in your reply. Your response notifies the FNS that you’re challenging the allegations against you, and it’s also the first step in the fight. You need to show the FNS how you’re in compliance with SNAP rules.
Requesting a review
If FNS affirms their decision, you need to take affirmative steps to continue to challenge the penalties against you. You must request an administrative hearing. You have only 10 days to submit a request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This demand must include specific information including the name and address of the business involved. You or your attorney must sign the request. You must identify the administrative action that you’re challenging. You must include information that supports why you’re challenging the administrative decision.
An administrative action creates a temporary stay of the administrative decision against you. This gives you time to continue to accept benefits while you wait for a further determination. In some cases, you can ask for more time to gather evidence. The reviewer makes a decision based on written information from you, from FNS and from anyone else with relevant information to provide.
Even if the administrative review doesn’t work out in your favor, you still have the chance to bring a review to U.S. federal court. This gives you the chance to tell your story to a judge. This judge isn’t an employee of FNS or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
To receive a judicial review, you have only 30 days from the date of the final determination in order to prepare a summons and complaint and file it in the appropriate court. Trial is de novo. That means that the judge makes a completely new determination. They don’t give any deference to the reviewer’s decision.
In some cases, you can even get a stay on your disqualification while you wait for the judge’s decision. To win a stay, the court must decide that you’re likely to ultimately win the case. You must also show that you or someone else will likely suffer an irreparable injury by the court’s order going into effect.
If you’re not happy with the U.S. District Court’s decision, you can appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals. You might even bring your case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although most SNAP cases don’t get that far, you can rest assured that our team of SNAP lawyers is ready to pursue your interests fully.
How we can help
Whether you’re in the process of applying for SNAP participation or you’re challenging your disqualification, our team of SNAP lawyers can help you wherever you’re at in the process. Our team knows the specifics of SNAP regulations, and we take pride in helping deserving clients protect their ability to use SNAP. It’s our goal to make the process as painless as possible.
Replying to a charge of violation or filing a judicial appeal often requires you to work quickly. Our team of SNAP attorneys has the skills to evaluate your case and draft documents with precision on tight deadlines. This allows you to fully exercise your rights to challenge the allegations and even bring a case in federal court.
Our team of attorneys also has the skills to help you negotiate with the attorneys that represent the FNS. Often times, we can help explain to them why your participation in SNAP is a benefit to the community. We may be able to negotiate a resolution that works for both you and the government. In addition to making sure we get the legal details correct, we handle the stressful negotiations with the government. If you’re working with the SNAP system, please contact us today.