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USDA SNAP Penalties For Retailers

USDA SNAP Penalties for Retailers

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a program under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in response to the adverse effects severe by COVID-19. USDA under Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) grants states significant program flexibility and contingencies to serve program participants in the best way possible. SNAP provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of low-income families to purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency.

Retailers Eligibility Requirements for SNAP

Retailers eligible for SNAP benefits are either farmer’s markets, direct marketing farmers, or vendors. For a store to be authorized under the SNAP program, it must meet one of the two eligibility criteria:

  • Criterion A – Staple food inventory
  • Criterion B – Staple food sales

Staple foods are the essential foods that make up a significant portion of a person’s diet. Staple foods are usually prepared at home and consumed as a meal. Staple foods do not encompass accessory foods, heated foods, or prepared foods. Staple foods are categorized into four groups:

  • Dairy products
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Bread and cereals
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  1. Criterion A

To qualify under Criterion A, a retailer must continuously offer at least seven varieties of foods within each of the four staple foods. At least three of the food varieties sold must be perishable. To qualify under criterion A, you must have thirty-six food stocking units. The majority of stores are authorized for SNAP benefits under criterion A.

  1. Criterion B

To qualify under criterion B, more than fifty percent of your store’s total gross sales in dollars must come from the sale of eligible staple foods. In case your store is a farm market, fifty percent is the total gross sales for all your vendors. For direct marketing farmers, it is fifty percent of the total gross retail sales of your own. Specialty stores such as butcher shops are authorized under criterion B.

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) also factors other eligibility requirements when considering a retailer for the SNAP benefits. Other eligibility considerations include:

  • Need for access

If your store fails to qualify under criterion A or Criterion B, it can still be considered by FNS for authorization SNAP benefits. You can still consider a retailer for authorization if they are located in a state or area where SNAP clients have significantly limited access to staple foods.

  • Restaurants

SNAP does not allow SNAP clients to redeem benefits at restaurants, but with very few exceptions. A firm is considered a restaurant if more than fifty percent of the total gross retail sales are generated from hot or cold prepared foods fit for immediate consumption.

  • Co-location

When multiple firms operate simultaneously meet certain elements, FNS will consider them a single firm when determining eligibility for SNAP authorization.

A Guide for Applying for SNAP Benefits

You can only be accepted to receive the retailer SNAP benefits by adhering to the following application procedures:

  1. Create a USDA account

You can only access the online SNAP application if you have an active USDA e-Authentication account. For retailers with no existing accounts, the first step is the creation of an account.

  1. Complete the online application

Before commencing the online application, ensure you have your store’s name, home address, social security number, and sales data ready. Ensure that you submit the online application within the valid thirty days lest it gets deleted. If you own more than ten stores, consider whether you are eligible under the Multi-Store Owner (MSO) application.

  1. Submit all the required supporting documents

The online application will only be considered complete after all the required supporting documents are submitted. Guidelines on how to submit the documents are given at the end of your application.

  1. Check the status of your application.

Once you have completed the online application process, you can review your application status in real-time. The application undergoes processing by FNS, who will contact you if they need any extra information.

SNAP Penalties for Retailers

Crimes related to SNAP are rare since the government ensures that they maintain a good image and confidence with the public. FNS has a team of investigators and analysts tasked with monitoring retailers to ensure that they comply with the set rules. There are, however, rare scenarios which include:

  • Trafficking- Sale of SNAP benefits.
  • Issuing of false documents
  • Submission of fraudulent applications
  • Sale of ineligible food items
  • Submission of fraudulent applications after the previous disqualification

FNS has come out to fight fraudulent retailers by strengthening the rules related to sanctions and penalties. SNAP penalties for retailers include:

  1. Retailers caught practicing in trafficking or violation of SNAP rules are permanently disqualified as SNAP retailers and sanctioned.
  2. Falsification of qualification documents is considered a criminal offense. Offenders are punished by paying a fine of ten thousand dollars or imprisonment for a term not less than five years or both.
  3. Fraudulent retailers such as groceries or convenience stores who pay SNAP beneficiaries cash for their SNAP-issued debit cards are liable for criminal consequences. Depending on the scale of the fraud, the business will pay millions of dollars in fines. On the other hand, the business executives face a jail term of not less than five years if found guilty of the offense.
  4. A store owner attempts to circumvent disqualification from SNAP by engaging in a purported sale or transfer of ownership of their store to a spouse or relative. The new purported owner applies to SNAP, claiming that the former disqualified owners are no longer associated with the store. This practice is referred to as straw ownership. The retailer involved in straw ownership is sanctioned for a civil offense. The offense is punishable by the civil money penalty.
  5. Retailers charged with trafficking and other fraudulent means of operation, in addition to criminal charges and penalties, face adverse money penalties. Some of the adverse money penalties faced include recoveries, asset forfeitures, restitution, and collection.

FNS has provided means for the public to disclose any fraudulent retailers.

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