USDA SNAP Retailer Reauthorization

Posted By Max Soni, On September 25, 2020

Navigating Through the SNAP Reauthorization Process

 

Currently authorized  SNAP retailers are required to submit a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP reauthorization every five years. The point of this is to determine your continued eligibility to accept snap payments at your store.  In the absence of a successful re-authorization, you will lose your EBT sales.  Want to continue to accept EBT at your store!  We can help you.

 

Over the years, the USDA has revised the authorization requirements for the benefits program. Don’t assume that since your store qualified before that it will be eligible again.  In fact, the USDA wants to reduce the number of authorized small business SNAP grocers.  Some of the ways the FNS has attempted to do this include setting more strict inventory requirements and limiting fish and meat vendors.  Frequently, on-site FNS inspectors and field offices show up at  your store to seek out excuses to deny its reauthorization.  The outcome is that the reauthorization process is not as simple as it once was.  These days, to qualify for reauthorization, your store has to meet all the requirements listed in Criterion A or B:

 

Criterion A

To qualify, a grocery store must stock at least 7 (seven) varieties of food items in each of the 4 (four) staple food categories.  Among these 7 (seven) varieties must be at least one perishable (fresh, frozen or refrigerated) product.  Every variety must have a minimum depth of stock of 3 stocking units.  The 4 (four) staple food categories include:

 

  • Vegetables/Fruits,
  • Dairy (which tends  to be the most problematic snap authorization category),
  • Breads/Cereal, and
  • Meat/Poultry/Fish

 

Criterion B

To meet this criterion, retailers need to have more than 50% of their total gross retail sales in staple foods.  Products that are heated or prepared on-site ( their temperature at the time of sale notwithstanding) are not included in this sales count.  Furthermore, if you sell too much heated food at your store, the USDA will classify your store as a restaurant. Anytime more than 50% of a store’s total gross sales are in prepared foods that are not intended for home preparation and/or consumption, the store is classified as a restaurant.  This does include all the food prepared on-site or sold for carryout.

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to snap Reauthorization

When that time comes around, you will receive a “re-authorization” letter at your store. There is a code in the letter which is for the USDA’s website. It will tell you how to commence your application.  The USDA does not take paper applications anymore.  Everything is web-based. You have 30 (thirty) days to complete your application.

Once your online application is submitted, the USDA will request additional documentation from you.  What documentation they request is unique for every grocer.  The requested documentation can include: 

  • an affidavit declaring that the current owners/officers/members of the store are not involved with any previously disqualified SNAP persons and reporting any criminal convictions and/or license revocations; 
  • copies of all current business licenses; 
  • the store’s bank details and signature card; 
  • personal and business tax returns.

 

Sometimes the USDA will follow the first request for paperwork with a request for revenue verification.  The USDA’s program specialist is reviewing to see if you serve too much hot/takeout food to qualify for reauthorization.  Records they may ask you for include invoice records, sales records, tax filings, and bills of sale.  If your records show that most of your food sales are heated, your application will be denied.

 

If the USDA is satisfied that your sales meet their standards, they then evaluate your inventory.  They primarily accomplish this by an in-store inspection conducted by the USDA.  If the survey reveals that your store‘s inventory does not fit their criteria, you may be given the chance to submit inventory records.  Supplier invoices and receipts from grocery purchases, or other records that show food purchases can assist as evidence to demonstrate that your business ordered and received a sufficient amount of required staple foods within 21 days prior to the store visit.

After the USDA evaluates your revenue and inventory, they issue a decision letter.  If your store is reauthorized then the process ends.  If your store is denied snap reauthorization, you have the right to appeal. Under some circumstances you can re-apply immediately, while others you may have to wait six months or longer.  In severe cases, the Department can try to permanently deny your application.

 

What To Do In the Event That Your snap Reauthorization Gets Denied?

 

You Can Opt for a SNAP Retailer License Appeal

The USDA may decide to withdraw your license to participate in snap as an authorized retailer.  They will notify you of this through a package delivered by UPS.  If a letter detailing the withdrawn status of your application(aka: a denial letter) arrives at your doorstep, you should do the following:

 

  • Determine if the denial or withdrawal is permanent.  If so, you should consider appealing or else you will never be able to get a license.
  • If you figure out that the denial is not permanent, determine if the store can survive throughout the re-application period.  For instance, if your snap sales account for only 3% of your total sales and the delay period is six months or less, you could possibly hold out.  On the other hand, say your snap sales account for 50% of your sales. With such a big chunk of your business in jeopardy, you will probably want to file an administrative review.
  • Put all of your documents together  and call our law office to schedule your free consultation. Our team handles all your paperwork, briefing and communication with the USDA.  We can also advise you as to whether an appeal would likely be successful or not.

 

You may get denied because, after an on-site store inspection conducted by an FNS agent, it was determined that your store failed to satisfy the stocking requirements listed in Criterion A, or that, after a review of the paperwork you submitted with your application, your business did not satisfy the sales requirements laid out in Criterion B.  Should this occur, you will not be able to reapply for snap authorization for at least six months, which can be damaging to many grocery stores.

 

Be aware– you have 10 (ten) days from the date you receive the decision letter to file an administrative review request.  Do not panic – if you get in touch with our firm right away at (813) 228-0658 we may be able to help you with your filing.  Our lawyers can represent you in the case, and present the documents and evidence necessary to win.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q – Will my EBT machine be turned off right away when I get the withdrawal letter?

 

A – You will no longer be authorized to accept snap benefits after the effective date of your store’s withdrawal.  That said, if you choose to file for an administrative review of the withdrawal, you will be allowed to accept SNAP benefits at your store pending the final agency decision.  

 

Q – How can I have EBT at my store again if I was denied reauthorization permanently?

 

A – Unless you promptly and correctly file an appeal, you may never be able to get your EBT license back.  In some situations, our office has helped clients regain EBT reauthorization after a denial, but every case is unique.  It’s best that you fill out the intake form below and have a free consultation to learn what is possible.

 

Q – I don’t have the point of sale machine to accept EBT cards. Can I still get reauthorized? 

 

A – At the time of this writing, the answer is yes, although that may change soon. The USDA is presently working to push through new regulations that would require your store to have a computerized point-of-sale terminal.  Nonetheless, if you have the ability to accept payment from debit cards, all you’ll need to do is reach out to your merchant services provider.

 

Get Your Free snap Reauthorization Denial Consult

We offer snap retailers a free consultation on any matters they may have on their hands involving EBT retailer applications.  Because the snap retailer requirements have become so much more difficult, we suggest that grocers retain an attorney to handle their matters.  All too often the USDA has claimed that they have not received sufficient documentation from a proprietor, or that they were unable to process an application. These circumstances are almost never true, but when snap retailers are unrepresented, they fall victim and are forced to apply again.  If you would like to have your free legal consultation, fill out the form below.