The USDA Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) monitors EBT transaction data to identify retailers engaging in the illegal “trafficking” in SNAP benefits. Once identified, these retailers are permanently disqualified from redeeming SNAP benefits. These disqualified EBT retailers are otherwise known as ALERT cases. Once a retailer is permanently disqualified, FNS relies on the ALERT process to notify the state of unusual recipient activity by these retailers.
When California gets an ALERT about a disqualified retailer, it sends the data to the county welfare department and the the county Special Investigations Unit (SIU). Once the county receives the ALERT data, the SIU is to confirm the point of contact for information within five business days. CDSS, within 30 days of getting the Alert from FNS, will also send a Warning Letter to all recipients included in the ALERT case file. (A sample warning letter is attached to ACL 13-45.)
Upon receipt of an ALERT case, the county SIU will initiate a referral for potential investigation of those recipients identified in a ALERT case presenting $500 or more of questionable transactions, as documented in transaction data reports. The county SIU is required to send CDSS an outcome report regarding these referrals within 90 days of receiving an ALERT case, or 180 days if the county decides to pursue an intentional program violation (IPV) through prosecution, a disqualification consent agreement or waiver, or an “administrative disqualification hearing,” better known as an IPV fraud hearing. If the county needs additional time to complete invesitgation of a case, the county SIU is expected to contact the CDSS Fraud Bureau to obtain an extension.