Determination and disposition of claims—retail food stores and wholesale food concerns.
(a) Claims against violators. FNS may establish and pursue claims against firms or other entities which have accepted or redeemed coupons in violation of the Food Stamp Act or this part regardless of whether the firms or entities are authorized to accept food stamps. If a firm fails to pay a claim, FNS may collect the claim by offsetting against amounts due the firm on redemption of other coupons or by deducting the amounts due from bonds posted by firms in compliance with the provisions of § 278.1(b)(4). FNS shall deny an application for authorization or reauthorization by a firm which has failed to pay a claim.
(b) Forfeiture of a collateral bond or draw down on an irrevocable letter of credit. If FNS establishes a claim against an authorized firm which has previously been sanctioned, collection of the claim may be through total or partial forfeiture of the collateral bond or draw down of the irrevocable letter of credit. If FNS determines that forfeiture or a draw down is required for collection of the claim, FNS shall take one or more of the following actions, as appropriate.
(1) Determine the amount of the bond to be forfeited or irrevocable letter of credit drawn down on the basis of the loss to the Government through violations of the Act, and this Part, as detailed in a letter of charges to the firm;
(2) Send written notification by method of proof of delivery to the firm and the bonding agent or commercial bank of FNS' determination regarding forfeiture or draw down of all or specified part of the collateral bond or irrevocable letter of credit and the reasons for the forfeiture or draw down action;
(3) Advise the firm and the bonding agent or commercial bank of the firm's right to administrative review of the claim determination;
(4) Advise the firm and the bonding agent or commercial bank that if payment of the current claim is not received directly from the firm, FNS shall obtain full payment through forfeiture of the bond or draw down of the irrevocable letter of credit;
(5) Proceed with collection of the bond or irrevocable letter of credit in the amount forfeited or drawn down if a request for review is not filed by the firm within the period established in § 279.5 of this chapter, or if such review is unsuccessful; and
(6) Upon the expiration of time permitted for the filing of a request for administrative and/or judicial review, deposit the bond or irrevocable letter of credit in a Federal Reserve Bank account or in the Treasury Account, General. If FNS requires only a portion of the face value of the bond or irrevocable letter of credit to satisfy a claim, the entire bond or irrevocable letter of credit will be negotiated, and the remaining amount returned to the firm.
(c) Coupons accepted without authorization.(1) The FNS officer in charge may approve the redemption under § 278.4 of coupons accepted by firms before the receipt of an authorization card from FNS if the following conditions exist:
(i) The coupons were received in accordance with the requirements of this part governing acceptance of coupons except the requirement that the firm be authorized before acceptance;
(ii) The coupons were accepted by the firm in good faith, and without intent to circumvent this part; and
(iii) The firm receives authorization to participate in the program.
(2) Firms seeking approval to redeem coupons accepted without authorization shall present a written application for approval to the local FNS field office. This application shall be accompanied by a written statement signed by the firm of all the facts about the acceptance of the coupons. The statement shall also include a certification that the coupons were accepted in good faith, and without any intent to circumvent this part.
(d) Burned or mutilated coupons. FNS may redeem burned or mutilated coupons only to the extent that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing of the United States Treasury Department can determine the value of the coupons. The firm presenting burned or mutilated coupons for redemption shall submit the coupons to the local FNS field office with a properly filled-out redemption certificate. In the section of the redemption certificate for entering the amount of coupons to be redeemed, an estimate of the value of the burned or mutilated coupons submitted for redemption shall be entered if the exact value of the coupons is unknown. The phrase “Deputy Administrator for Fiscal Management, FNS, USDA,” should be entered in the section of the redemption certificate for entering the name and address of the insured financial institution or wholesaler.
(e) Old series coupons. FNS may redeem the old series food coupons issued in 50-cent, 2-dollar, and 5-dollar denominations when they are presented for redemption. Firms presenting the coupons for redemption shall submit the coupons to the local FNS field office with a properly completed redemption certificate and a written statement, signed by a representative of the firm, detailing the circumstances of the acceptance of the coupons.
(f) Denials of claims brought by authorized firms against FNS. If a claim brought by a firm against FNS under this section is denied in whole or in part, notification of this action shall be sent to the firm by using any delivery method as long as the method provides evidence of delivery. If the firm is aggrieved by this action, it may seek administrative review as provided in part 279.
(g) Lost or stolen coupons. FNS may not be held liable for claims from retail food stores, meal services, or wholesale food concerns for lost or stolen coupons.