The Agricultural Department is cracking down on stores that break rules governing the use of food stamps.
Officials say they hope the move will improve the integrity of the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
The new penalties unveiled Thursday by Agriculture Undersecretary Kevin Concannon will allow the agency to bar retailers who traffic in food stamp benefits, as well as to assess fines.
At the moment the department can't do both. Concannon said that penalties "may have been viewed as a slap on the wrist."
The department is also instituting a new rule that says states must verify that applicants are not in jail or deceased.
"USDA has a zero tolerance policy for SNAP fraud," Concannon said. "These additional measures reaffirm our ongoing commitment to ensuring these dollars are spent as intended, helping millions of people in need get back on solid economic footing."
"These requirements will make us better at identifying potential fraud and abuse before it occurs, as well as help us hold bad actors even more accountable than in the past and discourage them from abusing the public's trust," Concannon added.