What is a Civil Money Penalty?
If you have received a SNAP Violation Letter, (or a “Charging Letter”), there’s a good chance that the letter mentions something about a Civil Money Penalty. Though the letter doesn’t do a very good job of explaining what a SNAP Civil Money Penalty (or “CMP”) is, or whether you qualify for one, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), through its Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), expects you to apply for the issuance of a Civil Money Penalty within ten (10) days of receiving your charging letter. This short deadline is mandatory. The USDA will not grant you an extension of time to answer.
SNAP Civil Money Penalties
In an effort to lessen the impact on a business facing either a disqualification or a suspension from the SNAP program, Congress authorized the USDA to charge money penalties (fines) to the business instead of imposing the suspension. This penalty is capped at no more than $59,000.00 and is calculated by the USDA’s regulations using your store’s EBT transaction data.
Typically, your charging letter will identify what amount the USDA has determined your SNAP Civil Money Penalty would be (it’s often located at the bottom of the first page or the top of the second page of the charging letter). The amount determined by the Department is technically subject to challenge. However, it is usually automatically calculated from data that only the Department maintains.
How to qualify for a SNAP Civil Money Penalty?
- Your store must have an effective (in writing) SNAP compliance policy. This means that your employee handbook should include guidelines about SNAP benefits. These policies should be updated regularly and dated as they are updated.
- Your store must prove that its compliance policy was in effect before the alleged violations occurred. The best way to prove this is to keep written logs (and signatures) to show the dates of the program.
- Your store should have a written training program. This means that your store has a written training manual on how/when to accept EBT benefits. This documentation should include signatures of the employees who have completed the training program.
- The owners and management of your store should not have directly benefited from any SNAP violations.
SNAP Violations, and in particular SNAP Civil Money Penalties are not easy to understand. Protect your store and hire an experienced and knowledgeable SNAP attorney. Call us today for a free consultation (813) 228-0658.