7 C.F.R. 278.6(b) – Disqualification of Retail Stores from Food Stamps Program
For SNAP to permit you to continue EBT card transactions, there has to be consistency in the data they see for EBT redemption in the store. If there is a violation in your store, it will be described in a letter you receive from the USDA. A store can also be booted from the SNAP program because they are no longer qualified for the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children program – or WIC.
Stores disqualified from SNAP because of WIC disqualification cannot appeal. You might be disqualified from the WIC program for out of date food on your shelves or because you do not have required foods. Or employees could be exchanging these food instruments for drugs, ammunition or cash, overcharging customers or using unauthorized transaction channels.
A SNAP disqualification for your store will last as long as you are suspended from the WIC program, although it may begin a bit later than the WIC disqualification. Once your store is disqualified from WIC participation, SNAP does not review your store. Note that if SNAP disqualification would have a negative impact on nearby EBT households, you will not necessarily be disqualified because of a WIC disqualification.
Your ten-day notice from the FNS will lay out the violations your store committed and the actions you will have to take to regain SNAP licensure. An experienced lawyer can help you assemble a defense. Permanent disqualifications begin as soon as you get the letter, with temporary disqualifications lasting anywhere between six months to five years for the first sanction and 1-10 years for the second sanction. Sometimes criminal charges also follow.
If a lawyer can help you create an effective response, you may be able to simply pay a penalty and continue participating in the program. These penalties are limited to $59,000. To increase the chances of a penalty rather than a suspension, ensure your employees get thorough SNAP and EBT transaction training. You will want to provide the agency with verification of such training.
Your lawyer should be able to help you assemble any necessary documentation. Your disqualified store can reapply to the SNAP program, but no sooner than 10 days following your disqualification. FNS decides on your eligibility. If your store’s disqualification results in suffering for the neighborhood, you will likely be reauthorized.
When you get a letter from the USDA ending your participation in SNAP, you will need to find a lawyer with experience in this area to help with your defense. Remember you must respond quickly, and the effectiveness of that response determines whether you are suspended or penalized.