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USDA SNAP Violation Letter: How to Respond
SNAP is one of the oldest of all American government programs. The program intends to make it possible for Americans to get access to the food they need even if they have cash flow problems. Store owners can choose to participate in this program if they want. Any store owner who decides to work with the SNAP program should keep in mind that the program can be quite complicated. Unlike cash or credit card payments, many things are not allowed to be purchased via SNAP payments. The store owner, their employees and the recipient are entrusted with following the rules that govern SNAP use. When something goes wrong and SNAP payments are used in a way that is not intended, this may lead to the government getting involved in the process. Government officials can send store owners what is known as a SNAP violation letter.
A SNAP violation letter may appear innocuous at first. Any letter should be taken very seriously. The letter will contain a cover page indicating that officials believe a violation has taken place. There will be a series of pages indicating the extent of the violations. This will also include details such as when the violation allegedly took place and the nature of the violation.
There are many types of allegations that a store owner may be charged with in this letter. A store owner may be accused of trafficking in SNAP benefits. This term means agreeing to exchange a customer’s SNAP benefits in return for cash on the dollar, legal or illegal drugs drugs or weapons such as a gun. If you are found guilty of trafficking in SNAP, you can be disqualified from accepting SNAP forever.
A retailer can also be disqualified from the program if they sell items that are not allowed. For example, paper products such as plates and cups cannot be purchased by the user. In general, selling items like soap is considered a minor violation. However, if you sell items like tobacco, especially to minors, this is considered a more serious violation of SNAP rules. If the store owner is found guilty of a minor violation, they can expect what is known as a term disqualification. The term disqualification is generally for a short period. A store owner might be prevented from accepting SNAP payments for a few weeks or even a few months. A major violation might lead to a longer disqualification ranging from three to five years.
A Serious Matter
If you have a letter in hand, there are certain things to keep in mind. Some of the most important are how to avoid responding to the letter.
In the first place, avoid calling officials at the agency. You must presume anything you say may be used against you at a later date. A store owner may be tempted to ask them for further information. This is also a bad idea. If you are asked to send in additional documentation, do not do so without running it by a legal professional first. It’s a much better idea to head to the program’s website. The site is written for users and updated on a frequent basis.
An employee is also not in a position to negotiate with you. State agencies can do so but not those entrusted with SNAP enforcement. Keep in mind the letter indicates they wish to disqualify you from participating in the program. The letter is a warning shot indicating they have evidence. They want you to dismissed from the program.
Remember, the letter is a charge. You do not have to respond to it. Do not admit you are guilty of any wrongdoing. This could be used against you at a later date. There are lots of reasons why the data might indicate there’s a problem. That does not mean there is a problem. You should not assume you have no defense against any allegations.
It’s also best to avoid talking about your employees. Store owners are considered responsible for the action of those who work for them. Even if you were not there when the violations took place, you are still considered responsible for what happened. As a store owner, you are in charge. You are charged with instructing your employees in the proper use of SNAP payments. If they make a mistake, you are considered at fault for not providing them with adequate instruction.
Once you’ve had a chance to read the letter, you need to take further steps immediately. You only have ten days to respond to it. A professional can help. The first step is to make sure you have as much documentation as possible on hand. You should have detailed records related to all areas of SNAP use. This means indicating that you have done a lot to help train your employees before they started. You should have records on hand indicating what kind of training you are providing them. You should also look closely at any sales records. It is possible there have been mistakes with the entering of data into your system.
There are other steps you can also take to provide a defense. For example, talking to your employees can indicate they do not understand what regulations apply and why. At the same time, they can also provide evidence that all necessary procedures were followed to the letter. A letter is a serious matter. It can greatly hinder your ability to provide for your customers and even lead to large fines if you are found guilty of a violation. Contacting a lawyer as soon as possible is a must for any store owner with a SNAP violation.
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