Sometimes, people in New York rely on the assistance of food stamps so that they can feed their families. Grocery stores and many other retailers that sell food that can be purchased with food stamps rely on the customers who have these benefits so that they can stay in business, especially in low-income areas. Most recipients and businesses see food stamps as a form of a cash payment, but the government sees the benefits as strictly for the purpose of purchasing food for the family instead of using the benefits to buy alcohol, toiletries, and tobacco.
There are regulations that states have to follow in order for people to receive food stamp benefits. The recipients of the benefits also have to follow strict regulations that include reporting any income changes, especially if the income amount increases, and reporting whether someone moves into or out of the home as these changes can impact the amount of the benefits received each month. One of the ways that businesses can get in trouble is to treat food stamp benefits like cash, offering credit to recipients like they would if customers had a credit or debit card. This is called food stamp trafficking. It’s also classified as food stamp fraud.
Any business that takes part in trafficking could risk losing the ability to accept food stamps from customers. If there is evidence that trafficking has taken place for a significant amount of time, then the business could be closed until the proper penalties have been satisfied. Businesses that claim that they didn’t know offering credit in exchange for food stamps shows ignorance of the laws of the state and is often not a defense that can be used if the business is suspected of fraud.
If a business is charged with food stamp trafficking or fraud, then the best option is to seek the assistance of an attorney. Offering credit not associated with food stamp benefits usually isn’t an issue for businesses. Businesses can offer IOU options to customers who are unable to pay for all of the merchandise that they want or need. However, this is left to the discretion of the business. If a business extends credit options with a food stamp card instead of a credit or debit card or cash, then this is an illegal act. Aside from being banned from participating in the food stamp program, the owner of the business could face time in jail.
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