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December 21, 2023

Hagerstown business owner beats USDA, flipping SNAP retailer policy

Credit: Tris-State Alert

21 December 2023- Congressman David Trone commended constituent Altimont Mark Wilks for fighting back against the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) discriminatory policy of denying small business owners with a previous criminal conviction the opportunity to become Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retailers. Last week, the USDA settled a case in Carmen’s Corner Store vs. USDA, granting Wilks the ability to become an authorized SNAP retailer and changing the department’s internal policy to allow other returning citizens to become authorized SNAP retailers too. 

For five years, Wilks has fought to keep his stores open in Hagerstown and Frederick, despite his inability to fully serve his customers due to the USDA’s former “business integrity” policy. After meeting and getting to know Wilks several years ago, Trone wrote and introduced the SNAP Second Chance Act to limit the USDA’s ability to deny justice-impacted small business owners the opportunity to become SNAP retailers. Trone intends to continue his effort in Congress to ensure the USDA’s changes are enshrined into federal law. To learn more about Wilks’ story, click here

“I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Altimont Mark Wilks over the past few years and witnessing his journey of becoming a successful business owner and upstanding citizen. Mr. Wilks worked hard after his release to build his own business and deserves — just like any other entrepreneur — to serve his customers and community in the best way he can,” said Congressman David Trone. “Unfortunately, Mr. Wilks struggled for years to keep his business alive because he was unable to become a SNAP retailer as a justice-impacted individual, which is why I introduced the SNAP Second Chance Act to change this discriminatory policy. Today, I’m thrilled to see that the USDA has changed its internal policy as a result of Mr. Wilks’ court case, and I will continue working to ensure it’s enshrined into federal law.”

“We are delighted that the USDA chose to do the right thing in changing the ‘business integrity’ provision that barred many justice-impacted entrepreneurs from becoming authorized SNAP EBT retailers. This change in USDA policy is a positive step towards giving Justice Impacted Entrepreneurs across our country access to vital resources that will economically empower their business and their communities,” said Altimont Mark Wilks. “We are grateful to Congressman David Trone for his years of encouragement and support. Carmen’s Corner Store is a living testament of what can be achieved when congressional representatives collaborate with constituents to affect actionable change in our communities. This is an example of getting things done.”

Read full article here.