The U.S. Food and Nutrition Service (“FNS”) is the federal agency with primarily responsibility for administrating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
OFW Law Principal Stewart Fried has broad expertise in all SNAP and WIC-related matters and represents associations, supermarkets, convenience stores, and other SNAP-eligible retailers on a wide variety of SNAP and WIC-related issues, including statutory and regulatory advice, submission of comments in response to proposed rules, and preparation of training guides and compliance protocols. OFW Law attorneys frequently guide retailers through the SNAP authorization process and have represented retailers in dozens of administrative and judicial appeals of adverse FNS decisions, including denials and withdrawals of SNAP authorization, trafficking in SNAP benefits, credit account violations, and sales of ineligible items. OFW Law attorneys also have in-depth knowledge regarding FNS’s FOIA procedures and regulations and have worked with FNS to protect retailers’ confidential business information (CBI) and trade secrets from improper disclosure.
Formerly known as the Food Stamp program, SNAP is a $71 billion federally funded program that serves to increase the food purchasing power of more than 43 million low-income Americans. Although state and local agencies provide SNAP beneficiaries with EBT cards, FNS has exclusive authority to authorize SNAP retailers pursuant to the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, as amended. Although FNS has promulgated regulations governing the participation and disqualification of SNAP retailers, 7 CFR Part 278, its regulations are frequently vague and the long-term consequences of an adverse decision in a SNAP retailer case – permanently disqualification from SNAP and reciprocal disqualification from WIC – cannot be understated.
WIC serves a much smaller subset of the population than SNAP, but is viewed by most retailers as far more burdensome. The authorization of WIC retailers, while subject to FNS oversight, is primarily handled by state agencies typically pursuant to a multi-year vendor contract. Although a number of state agencies have migrated to EBT-WIC, a majority still utilize WIC checks/vouchers. Redemption and processing of WIC vouchers are detail-oriented processes and create many opportunities for technical violations that could result in term or permanent disqualification from WIC. Unfortunately for many SNAP and WIC-authorized retailers, a relatively minor violation of its WIC vendor contact could result in reciprocal disqualification from SNAP with serious financial consequences.
Representative SNAP and WIC Matters on behalf of Retailers before FNS, State Agencies, and the Federal Courts
We have established a reputation for effectively and efficiently handling administrative and judicial review proceedings in the protection of retailers’ rights. Our attorneys have successfully:
• Successfully litigated a federal court decision in Kentucky reversing the permanent denial of a retailer’s SNAP application based on a misdemeanor conviction pursuant to FNS’s business integrity regulations. Kem Warren v. United States
• Settled a federal court action that resulted in the reinstatement of a Florida convenience store’s SNAP authorization following FNS’s permanent withdrawal of its SNAP authorization based on a former officer’s permanent disqualification from SNAP
• Settled a federal court action that resulted in the reinstatement of a Chicago grocery store’s SNAP authorization following FNS’s permanent disqualification of the retailer for trafficking
• Obtained FNS Final Agency Decisions reversing and/or rescinding FNS decisions to permanently disqualify retailers from SNAP due to trafficking
• Obtained FNS Final Agency Decisions reversing and/or rescinding FNS decisions to permanently deny or withdraw retailers’ SNAP authorizations
• Filed comments in response to an FNS Proposed Rule relating to SNAP Retailer regulations on behalf of an international convenience store chain
• Represents an association in FOIA litigation relating to FNS SNAP Retailer Data