For many retail businesses, federal food stamps are a big source of revenue. This is especially true for gas stations, small grocery stores, and convenience stores. Without the ability and authorization to accept food stamp benefits, your business would suffer considerably.

So when it comes to complying with federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) regulations, the stakes are high for authorized retailers. Owners of convenience stores and grocery stores who accept SNAP benefits as payment are responsible for full compliance with the regulations. Violations can lead to permanent disqualification, civil fines, and even criminal charges in some circumstances.

As the store owner, you’re responsible for violations, even if committed by employees, regardless of whether you had any knowledge of the violations, and regardless of whether you were inside your store at the time the alleged violation occurred.

In other words, you are 100% responsible in the eyes of the law, or at least the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has the authority to end EBT transactions as a form of revenue for your business.

Serious Violations Of SNAP Regulations

One of the most serious – and most common – SNAP program violations is food stamp trafficking. This happens when a store employee:

  • Accepts EBT transactions in exchange for cash
  • Provides cash change for EBT transactions
  • Allows customers to pay with EBT benefits for ineligible items (for example, cigarettes, alcohol or nonfood purchases)
  • Buys or sells EBT debit card numbers and PIN numbers

Suspicious behavior can trigger not only an investigation by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service but also a potential referral to law enforcement for a criminal investigation.

The penalties for SNAP violations can range from temporary disqualification to permanent disqualification. This means your store won’t be able to accept EBT payments, eliminating a major source of revenue. Substantial civil monetary penalties can also apply.

The No. 1 Way To Protect Your Business Is Compliance

Proactive measures are the best way to prevent SNAP violations and minimize the consequences should they still occur. Having a compliance plan and following through on it could mean the difference between staying in business and losing your store.

At Marcilliat & Mills PLLC, we can help you create a detailed compliance policy to safeguard your business against these and other SNAP program violations. Such a plan typically involves:

  • Training your employees on the rules surrounding food stamp benefits and prohibited activities
  • Keeping adequate training records
  • Maintaining detailed logs of EBT (electronic benefits transfer) transactions
  • Prohibiting employees from engaging in suspicious EBT transactions (such as manually entering card numbers when it’s not necessary to do so)
  • Establishing a reporting process for employees to bring suspicious activities to your attention
  • Outlining strong disciplinary measures for employees who fail to comply
  • Putting fraud detection measures into place

Thorough training is the bedrock of a solid compliance plan. Every cashier should know the USDA’s list of rules by heart before being allowed to accept EBT transactions. That is how you train your employees. Then, have your employees sign an acknowledgment of training before starting cashier duties. That is how you can prove to the USDA that you as the employer took adequate steps to ensure compliance with public assistance program rules.

Have You Received A SNAP Violation Letter?

Unfortunately, even with proper training, unscrupulous employees still sometimes commit violations of food stamp program regulations. As the employer, you may have to answer for their behavior. Still, if you have trained your employees properly on program regulations – and can prove that you trained them – you will have a much better defense if the USDA sends you a SNAP violation letter and threatens disqualification.

Why Work With Marcilliat & Mills PLLC?

If your gas station, convenience store, or grocery store is currently under investigation for food stamp trafficking, or if you’ve received a SNAP violation letter, it’s critical to get a lawyer involved immediately. There may be numerous avenues for defending against potential sanctions. You need a strong and experienced advocate to stand up for your business.

Marcilliat & Mills PLLC is a BBB accredited firm with an A+ rating. Our award-winning attorneys know what it takes to fight for retailers who get into trouble with SNAP violations and food stamp trafficking. We understand the program regulations inside and out and, as a result, can help you put the right defensive strategies and compliance plan into place.

Based in North Carolina, we can help implement SNAP compliance programs for any store in the nation, via phone and email. We also provide employee training (online or on-site), advisory services, and defense against SNAP law enforcement actions by the USDA.

Get started with a FREE initial consultation. Learn more by contacting us online or calling 919-838-6643.

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