As is the case with many retail stores that sell certain types of food items, your business may participate in the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as SNAP. Participation permits you to accept electronic benefit payments, or EBT payments, from individuals who receive this form of governmental assistance.
Unfortunately, you may find yourself in the position your store has received what is known as a USDA SNAP violation notice. What this means is that the United States Department of Agriculture has made a preliminary determination that your store has violated the rules and regulations governing SNAP.
USDA SNAP Violation Lawyer
If you have found your business facing a SNAP violation notice, you need to take a proactive stance. This begins with coming to a general understanding of what is involved in the USDA SNAP violation process and how you can go about protecting your important legal rights and interests. This includes recognizing the importance of consulting with an experienced, skilled USDA SNAP violation attorney.
As a matter of practice, a USDA SNAP violation lawyer typically does not charge a fee for an initial consultation. During this session, an attorney will provide you with an evaluation of your case, including potential defenses to the violation notice. You will also have the chance to ask any questions you may have about your situation.
USDA SNAP Violation Notice
The standard USDA SNAP violation notice summarizes the alleged violations. In addition, the notice typically includes attachments which provide specific information about any and all allegations set forth in the notice itself.
When you receive a USDA SNAP violation notice, you have exactly 10 days in which to file a response. The short timeframe available to you to mount your defense underscores the need to be proactive in retaining legal representation.
In the response, you need to set forth with specificity why you do not feel you have violated the law when it comes to the SNAP program and the use of EBT benefits at your store. Once this defense is submitted, the second phase of the violation process commences. Keep in mind that if you fail to submit your response to the violation notice within 10 days, the USDA will conclude that you admit the allegations and will move to impose a penalty for violating the rules and regulations against your store.
Administrative Review Phase
When you submit your defense to the violation notice, the USDA initiates what is known as an administrative review of the matter. This involves a consideration of the initial allegations made against your store as well as your responses.
Upon the conclusion of the administrative review, the USDA will issue a determination. One of three things can occur at this juncture. The USDA can uphold the allegations. In the alternative, the USDA can side with you and dismiss the case. Finally, it is also possible that the agency will uphold some of the allegations and dismiss others.
Judicial Review Phase
If the USDA finds against you in regard to some of all of the allegations, following the administrative review of your case, you have the right to seek what is known as a judicial review of the matter. This involves filing an application with the United States District Court in the jurisdiction in which you store is located.
You have only 10 days to seek a judicial review in the federal court. Failing to meet this deadline will result in the decision of the USDA becoming final. You will have no further recourse.
The federal court will consider the arguments put forth by you and the USDA. The court will consider whatever facts have been presented in support of these arguments. Ultimately, the court will issue a final decision. If the decision is not favorable to you, you do have the ability to appeal the matter to the U.S. Court of Appeals in the circuit in which your store is located.
USDA SNAP Violation Penalties
If your store has been found to have violated SNAP and EBT rules and regs, your business faces a number of possible penalties. These include a warning, a suspension from SNAP EBT participation for a set period of time, or permanent removal as a participating merchant.