What is a SNAP Civil Money Penalty?
Although it may be difficult to understand, the civil money penalty is an alternative to suspension of a retailer from participating in the SNAP program. In other words, rather than stopping the business from taking SNAP benefits either temporarily or permanently, Congress allowed the USDA to fine them. SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase certain food items. Sometimes people and businesses do not adhere to the rules of the program.
A business is not allowed to benefit or profit from improper use of SNAP benefits. If the USDA believes the business is profiting from the program, they will send a letter telling the business the penalties they are facing. The offense is quite serious, and fines and penalties can be severe. When the letter is received by the business, they have 10 days to respond to the letter and qualify to pay the amount the USDA says is owed, allowing them to continue to accept SNAP benefits. If the business ignores or does not respond to this letter within 10 days, they will lose their ability to accept SNAP from their customers.
Qualifying for the Civil Money Penalty
When a business receives a SNAP violation letter, it is not just as simple as paying the fine. There are dozens of questions that must be answered in order to qualify for the penalty. Many business owners are confused. They do not know what they did wrong. They are overwhelmed and may decide to ignore the letter. Contacting an attorney immediately to advise them how to handle the letter is of the utmost importance.
Since so many people depend on SNAP to buy the groceries their family needs, if your store can not accept SNAP, they will take their business elsewhere. This can result in a huge loss of income. Losing customers, even temporarily, can hurt a business. Once the customer goes to another store, they may not come back if and when the store is permitted to accept SNAP.
Can An Attorney Help?
Paying the fine is likely to be far less expensive than the loss of business. It is not just as simple as sending the USDA the fine. There is a lengthy process that includes many rules, requirements, and questions. An attorney experienced in dealing with this type of case can help you sort through the maze of questions, rules, and regulations. He or she can assist you with all aspects of the civil money penalty and help to keep your business from experiencing financial loss.