How to deal with a SNAP Violation charge letter
If you received a 10-day notice from the USDA, then, you need to read this:
At some point, the USDA started monitoring your business for SNAP Trafficking. Yes, it sounds very serious and accusatory, but that leads to the next problem. They noticed that some of your transactions were abnormal.
A charge letter, pursuant to 7 C.F.R. §278.6(b), sets forth the violations of SNAP the FNS alleges your firm committed and provides evidence supporting those allegations, such as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) transaction records. A store is entitled to respond to these allegations within ten (10) days of receipt of the charge letter before the FNS can make a final determination. This ten-day period is crucial in the defense against a SNAP violation.
Is this 10 business days or 10 calendar days? Many of our clients erroneously believe that the 10 day notice does not include Holidays and/or weekends. The correct answer is that the deadline to respond with a properly drafted petition is within 10 calendar days. Again, calendar days is inclusive of weekends and Holidays. The only concession that you get is that if your due date falls on a Sunday, then, you can file your case the next day, on Monday, and it will be deemed timely filed.
A properly drafted petition, along with a power of attorney, and supporting documentation is the ideal response. If a petition does not include supporting documentation, the agent may allow for it to be sent after the filing. Nevertheless, we do not recommend this practice. If a USDA agent is overwhelmed with a stack of cases, it is asking them for a lot to review your original case file and then review it again with supporting documentation.
Why is everybody getting charged with snap trafficking?
During the pandemic, the government gave out P-EBT benefits. These are pandemic-era benefits. Families received 2 to 3 times as much in benefits as much as they did prior to the pandemic. When people who don’t work for the money have benefits left over, they end up spending every last dollar of it on things they don’t even need. We have heard numerous stories from our clients that tell us that their customers buy things just for the sake of buying them. Since the benefits do not roll over, they want to make sure they’re using up every last dollar. But that doesn’t necessarily work out in your favor. When the USDA sees that so many purchases were made in such a short period of time, they think you are the problem.
Does it start to make sense? The government gave away too much money, and now they’re looking for it. The easiest way to compensate themselves for the extra money lost is to hand out civil monetary penalties up to $59,000 or simply reduce the number of EBT licenses with permanent disqualifications from the SNAP/EBT program.
During this time, we focus on things like SNAP Charge transactions in a short period of time.
If you have been sent a charge notice and see 2-4 transactions made by the same cardholder within a 24-hour period, the USDA’s tracking system has most likely flagged your machine for this reason.
The USDA’s thought process is as follows: If you go grocery shopping and then forget an item or two, it is understandable. You would walk back into the store within a few hours and get that last item that you forgot about the first time.
When a customer at your store purchases $80 worth of goods and then returns within a few hours to purchase another $50 worth of goods, it is suspicious to the USDA as to why somebody would return and practically do an entirely new grocery shopping. The questions raised are who else is using the card? Should the store owner know that these transactions are illegal and what are the customers really buying?
One of our clients describes his clientele’s behavior as such that once a customer makes their first purchase, the customer then asks how much money is left on their card and based on the reply, then, purchases more groceries. For this reason, they normally make a test purchase of a qualified grocery item and then plan for future purchases. Their future purchase is normally made within minutes of finding out how much money is remaining on their card.
It is most important to respond to your notice on time. There are numerous reasons why your customers behave the way they do. Neither one of us are a psychologist or consumer behavior specialist. Call our SNAP violation attorney to respond to your notice.