FAQ about 2020-2021 Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) in Pennsylvania

PA will start distributing new school meals benefits in May!What is P-EBT?

The U.S. Congress created the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) Program in Spring 2020 to help families buy food while schools were closed due to COVID-19. More P-EBT funds are being issued to families for the 2020-2021 school year.

Am I Eligible for P-EBT?

My child is enrolled in a K-12 school

To qualify for P-EBT, your child must:

  1.  have had a reduced number of in-person learning days this school year AND 
  2.  be enrolled in free or reduced-price school meals. 

If your child is enrolled at a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program (you can check the PA list of such schools here), they are already signed up for P-EBT if:

  • you received P-EBT for the end of the 2019-2020 school year, in which case your eligibility will carry over from last year; OR
  • you receive SNAP benefits; OR
  • your child attends a school that provides free meals to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the National School Lunch Program. (You can read more about CEP and check to see if your child’s school participates here.) 

All other families will need to be signed up for free or reduced-price school meals in order to automatically receive P-EBT benefits. You can read about how to apply for school meals and check the income guidelines below on this page. 

Not eligible for free/reduced-price school meals and P-EBT

Children enrolled in schools that do not participate in the National School Lunch Program, such as cyber school or homeschool, can’t qualify for free or reduced-price school meals and so they are not eligible for P-EBT. A cyber school should not be confused with whatever virtual learning program your child is doing this year due to the pandemic. Both virtual learning and cyber school are online, but cyber schools existed before the pandemic and will continue to after. If you’re not sure whether your child has been disenrolled from their regular school and enrolled in your district’s cyber school, please contact your school.

My child is age 0-5 and receives SNAP benefits

Congress has allowed states to provide P-EBT for young children who receive SNAP. Whether or not your child will receive P-EBT will depend on whether child care centers and/or schools in your area have also been closed. Pennsylvania is still working on a plan to provide these benefits. We will add a section to this FAQ about benefits for these children once PA has submitted its plan and the USDA approves it.

Do I need to apply for free or reduced-price meals?

Your child will need to be signed up for free or reduced-price school meals in order to automatically receive P-EBT benefits. You DO NOT need to apply for free or reduced-price school meals in order to receive P-EBT if: 

  • you received P-EBT for the end of the 2019-2020 school year, in which case your eligibility will carry over from last year; OR
  • you receive SNAP benefits; OR
  • your child attends a school that provides free meals to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).
Income Limits for Reduced Price Meals for the 2020-2021 School Year and P-EBT
HOUSEHOLD SIZE YEARLY INCOME MONTHLY INCOME
1 $23,606 $1,968
2 $31,894 $2,658
3 $40,182 $3,349
4 $48,470 $4,040
5 $56,758 $4,730
6 $65,046 $5,421
7 $73,334 $6,112
8 $81,622 $6,802
Each additional family member +$8,288 +$691

We recommend all other families apply for free and reduced-price school meals in order to get P-EBT. (Please see the maximum income allowed per household in the accompanying chart.) 

Your school can tell you how to apply for free or reduced-price meals in order to get P-EBT benefits. Many schools have a simple one-page or online school meals application available. You can also apply for both the National School Lunch Program and for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) online through COMPASS, Pennsylvania’s online application system. As long as your application is processed at some time during the 2020-2021 school year, you will automatically receive benefits for the entire school year. 

How much will I receive?

The amount you receive will depend on your child’s learning situation, which will be reported by the school. It doesn’t matter if your school allowed in-person instruction; if you opted for virtual instruction, your child is eligible for P-EBT as long as they meet the eligibility criteria described above.

  • For months where your child’s learning was fully virtual, you will receive $136.40 per month per child.
  • For months where your child’s learning was a combination of in-school and virtual, you will receive $88.66 per month per child. (This amount may change for the third payment in July.)
  • For months where all learning has been in school, you will receive $0.

How will I get P-EBT?

For families who also receive SNAP (food stamps), the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services will try to post P-EBT to their SNAP EBT card. Benefits will be posted in May. More information about when to expect payments will be coming soon. If there is an error, you will be mailed a P-EBT card. You can check your EBT balance by calling 1-888-EBT-PENN or using the MyCOMPASS PA app on your smartphone.

New P-EBT Cards will be mailed to all other families who qualify.

  • Families can expect to receive one card for each eligible child.
  • Even if you received a P-EBT card for last school year, you will receive a new card.
  • Your school will be providing the mailing address for the card. It is important to make sure your school has your correct mailing address.
  • Your child’s birth date will be needed to activate the card, make sure your school also has your child’s correct date of birth.
  • Keep the new P-EBT card you receive, future payments will post to that card.

Curious about applying for SNAP? Learn more here: https://tinyurl.com/SNAPforPA

When will I receive P-EBT benefits?

On March 11, 2021, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture approved Pennsylvania’s plan to provide P-EBT benefits to students. The state hopes to start sending out benefits six weeks after this date, so benefits will begin to be sent out in early May 2021. P-EBT cards being sent through the mail may experience delays.

If you receive your P-EBT benefits on a P-EBT card, make sure you keep it; future payments will post to that card.

  • The 1st payment will cover the months of September through November 2020. These will start going out in May.
  • The 2nd payment will cover December 2020 through February 2021. This payment will arrive in June and be loaded onto the same EBT card as your May payment.
  • The 3rd payment will cover March through May 2021. This payment will arrive in July and be loaded onto the same EBT card as the other payments. Note: this third payment may have a different amount for hybrid months. The state will have to determine the average number of days that students missed meals due to new hybrid modes, since many schools may provide more in-person learning later this spring.

What happened to June?

To make payments simplified over the school year, the 180 school days are divided up evenly into the 9 months of September through May. Each payment will cover 3 months.

PA will send out payments (via mail and/or loaded to EBT cards) over a ten-day period. Not everyone will receive their P-EBT payments on the same day.

How will I activate my card?

Call the Pennsylvania EBT Hotline: 1-888-EBT-PENN (1-888-328-7366)

Select your language

Enter your P-EBT card number and follow the prompts

Create a PIN:

  • At the prompt for the last four digits of your social security number, enter the last 4 digits of your zip code.
  • Then enter the child’s date of birth using the 2 digit month + 2 digit day + 4 digit year Example: April 6, 2005 = 04062005
  • Select your new four-digit PIN, then re-enter your new PIN to confirm
  • You will hear a message that the PIN was created successfully, and then the hotline will hang up automatically.

How do I check my P-EBT card balance?

You can check your EBT balance by calling 1-888-EBT-PENN. (1-888-328-7366)

Or, you can check your balance online at www.ConnectEBT.com When checking the balance of a P-EBT card online, for the social security number enter 000-00-XXXX with the X’s as the last four digits of your zip code and use your child’s date of birth.

How do I use my P-EBT card to buy food?

You can use P-EBT anywhere SNAP benefits are accepted, like grocery stores or smaller corner stores. Some farmers markets also accept SNAP. Look for signs that say “WE ACCEPT EBT / SNAP HERE.”

You can use P-EBT to purchase most fresh, canned, and frozen food items like:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, dairy, and eggs
  • Rice, beans, and dry goods
  • Seeds to grow your own plants

Click here for a complete list of approved food items.

Pay with your card at the register.

  • Swipe your card at the check-out counter like a debit card, but press the button for EBT.
  • Some machines will give you the choice of “cash” or “food.” Select “food.”
  • Enter your PIN # on the number pad.
  • If you are also buying non-food items, you will be asked for a second payment method.
  • Check your receipt to make sure that the amount on the receipt is the same as the amount of your purchase. Your receipt will also show your remaining balance.

You can use your P-EBT card, just like a SNAP EBT card, to buy groceries online from Aldi, Amazon, Fresh Grocer, ShopRite, and Walmart. However, like SNAP, you can’t use P-EBT to pay for delivery fees. Learn more here: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/SNAP-Online-Purchasing.aspx

What if I lost my card?

You can request a replacement card at www.emergencymealsurvey.com/PA

What if the benefit amount I received is wrong?

Pennsylvania will have an online form for reporting benefit errors as well as a phone number to call. Check for updates here: https://www.dhs.pa.gov/providers/Providers/Pages/Coronavirus-Pandemic-EBT.aspx

If you report that the amount of benefits the state gave you is wrong because your child’s learning was fully remote (due to health or other personal reasons) even though the school was a hybrid model, the state will contact your school to verify your child’s learning schedule.

Will this impact my immigration status?

Using your P-EBT card does NOT impact you or your child’s immigration status. The public charge rule does NOT apply to P-EBT benefits. Note: the public charge test also does NOT apply to getting SNAP benefits for an eligible family member (such as your U.S citizen child).

Do I have to use all my P-EBT benefits when I get them?

No. The money will carry over from month to month. If you do not use your card at all for nine months, benefits will be removed from the card.

Will receiving P-EBT benefits affect my eligibility for other benefits?

No, it will not, and receiving other benefits will not affect your eligibility for P-EBT.

I have been picking up meals from my child’s school. Can I still get P-EBT?

Yes! You can pick up meals from your child’s school and also get P-EBT. Schools can still offer meals, as well.

I don’t want to use my P-EBT funds. What do I do?

The economy is very uncertain, so you can hold onto the card in case you need it months from now. Funds will carry over from month to month, but if you do not use your card at all, funds will expire after 9 months.

This benefit cannot be transferred to others, so you cannot use this benefit to buy food for others. But you can buy food for your kids using this card – and if this frees up money for you to help others, then you can donate the money you saved on groceries to charity or to help others in need if you wish.

Further questions? Please check PA’s official P-EBT guide. You can also review the comments below to see if your question has already been asked and answered. If you can’t find your answer, contact Ann Sanders at anns@justharvest.org or post them in the comments below; you will receive a response by email.

Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger logoIf you live in Philadelphia you can contact Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger for more info (Kathy Fisher, kfisher@hungercoalition.org). We thank the Coalition for their contributions to this info.

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53 Responses to FAQ about 2020-2021 Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) in Pennsylvania

  1. Avatar
    Ashley May 10, 2020 at 6:05 am #

    My child is homeschooled she is 17 will she still be eligible

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 11, 2020 at 2:34 pm #

      No. Your child would have to attend a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program. P-EBT is compensation for the loss of those meals.

    • Avatar
      Ngoc Truong August 14, 2020 at 11:46 am #

      Why I received the P-ebt card but my balance is $0.

      • Avatar
        Just Harvest August 20, 2020 at 5:02 pm #

        If the balance is $0 there are a couple possible reasons. 1) You tried to use the card without properly activating it first. Please refer to Q5 above on how to do that. 2) Your child is involved in a custody dispute and the benefits were removed for that reason. If neither of these are the case, you should follow the instructions in Q7.

  2. Avatar
    Susan G Parno May 11, 2020 at 10:13 am #

    Is the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) FAQ sheet available in Spanish?

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 11, 2020 at 2:26 pm #

      Thanks for asking. https://www.justharvest.org/spanish-pandemicebt-faq/

      • Avatar
        Donna H. May 12, 2020 at 10:45 am #

        I dont have a EBT card. How do I apply for the P-EBT card? Both my sons attend Pittsburgh public school.

        • Avatar
          Just Harvest May 12, 2020 at 7:42 pm #

          You don’t need to apply. PPS is a “community eligibility” (CEP) district so all students enrolled there will receive P-EBT automatically because all PPS students are automatically eligible for free school meals. Since you don’t have an EBT card already the state will send you a P-EBT card with benefits for both of your sons.

  3. Avatar
    Joanna Peck May 11, 2020 at 3:05 pm #

    What about private school children? Do they need to apply to SNAP?

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 12, 2020 at 1:28 pm #

      P-EBT is compensation for lost free or reduced price school meals provided by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Students are only eligible for P-EBT if their school participates in NSLP, which is only offered at public schools, nonprofit private schools, residential care facilities and some preK programs. If you’re uncertain whether your school qualifies you would need to contact them. If your school qualifies but your child wasn’t receiving free or reduced price school meals before, and you think you might qualify now, please refer to the income guidelines above and Q3 on how to apply. Applying for SNAP is a separate process and doesn’t affect eligibility for P-EBT. Here is info on SNAP eligibility and how to apply: https://www.justharvest.org/get-help/snap-food-stamps/

  4. Avatar
    Rachel May 11, 2020 at 4:17 pm #

    I have two kids in public school that were receiving free meals, one child in public school that is totally gtube fed so not receiving meals, and two kids in private schools. Will all five of my kids get the EBT card since we are a household that qualifies or only the two kids that were actually getting the free meals?

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 12, 2020 at 1:46 pm #

      Does the private school participate in the National School Lunch Program? If so, you could apply for your children to be eligible for free or reduced-price meals and then get P-EBT benefits for them. Otherwise, it would just be the two students in public schools that had been receiving free meals.

    • Avatar
      Barbra Fitzgerald May 19, 2020 at 5:24 pm #

      Are dates available yet for deposit? The information given states within 15 days of May 6th. Is that business days or just 15 straight days? I currently have an open EBT case with.a Child who received Free breakfast/ lunch due to income. Our district does participate in the necessary program to qualify. Thank you.

      • Avatar
        Just Harvest May 20, 2020 at 12:04 pm #

        It is within 15 straight days — by May 22 — that the state will begin to issue P-EBT benefits to people with SNAP or TANF EBT cards whose children are enrolled in free or reduced-price school meals.

    • Avatar
      Julia Bergener May 24, 2020 at 6:08 pm #

      This is greatly appreciated, thank you. My son has special needs and will be attending ESY in July. Will there be additional benefits for that time period?

  5. Avatar
    Jamie Braum May 11, 2020 at 4:35 pm #

    What if we live in Clairton ( a city whose school is eligible) but they go to Propel (a charter school in McKeesport)?

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 12, 2020 at 12:30 pm #

      Propel Schools participate in the Community Eligibility Provision — all students at Propel schools are eligible for free school meals regardless of income. So you will automatically receive a P-EBT card with benefits for your child(ren) enrolled at Propel.

  6. Avatar
    Amirah Shepard May 11, 2020 at 5:13 pm #

    I didn’t see Philadelphia or Delaware county on the list.

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 12, 2020 at 12:34 pm #

      We operate in Allegheny County and don’t know which schools in other counties have the Community Eligibility Provision (by which all students receive free school meals regardless of income). For Philadelphia you can contact Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger for more info: Kathy Fisher, kfisher@hungercoalition.org

  7. Avatar
    Helaine Summers May 11, 2020 at 5:19 pm #

    Where do you apply for Pandemic EBT?

  8. Avatar
    Jen Simcox May 11, 2020 at 8:43 pm #

    My 4yr old attends early Headstart and received breakfast and lunch, will he qualify?

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 12, 2020 at 1:19 pm #

      You would have to ask if your Head Start is using the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or the Child and Adult Congregate Feeding Program (CACFP) to fund their free or reduced-price meals. Only children attending a school that participates in NSLP are eligible for P-EBT. Most Head Starts use CACFP unless they are tied to a school district.

  9. Avatar
    Chris May 11, 2020 at 9:05 pm #

    When will PA get these?

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 12, 2020 at 12:48 pm #

      Please see Q6 above.

      • Avatar
        Brianna May 13, 2020 at 7:50 pm #

        What if you have a special needs child that still attends school. He is 19 tho?

  10. Avatar
    Cheron May 11, 2020 at 10:43 pm #

    I already received DHS benefits, will the P-Ebt be added to my regular DHS card or will they be sending out a separate card.

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 12, 2020 at 12:39 pm #

      If the DHS benefits you receive are SNAP benefits (food stamps) it will be added to that card. If the benefits are for medical assistance, you will be sent a separate P-EBT card.

  11. Avatar
    Kim May 12, 2020 at 8:45 am #

    Hello, what if your child attends cyber school?

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 12, 2020 at 1:30 pm #

      P-EBT is compensation for lost free or reduced price school meals provided by the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Students are only eligible for P-EBT if their school participates in NSLP, which is only offered at public schools, nonprofit private schools, residential care facilities, and some preK programs.

  12. Avatar
    Khaleedah N Harris May 12, 2020 at 11:02 am #

    Does this apply for those already receiving benefits, including the maximum for their households?

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 12, 2020 at 12:42 pm #

      Yes — parents will receive P-EBT benefits for their eligible children regardless of any other benefits they are receiving.

  13. Avatar
    Takima Hubbard May 15, 2020 at 2:09 am #

    I have one child in public and 2 in charter school and all were signed up for free lunch but I only received benefits for 1. What do I do

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 18, 2020 at 5:30 pm #

      If you are receiving SNAP or TANF benefits then it’s possible the state was able to match your one child with your account and so their P-EBT benefits were deposited on your EBT card, but perhaps the charter school wasn’t running data matches, or may have their information in such a way that the state couldn’t match your children with your SNAP account. If so, a card should be mailed to you for your other two children in the coming weeks. You can check with your charter school just to make sure they have a correct address for you on file and are regularly sending information to the state.
      It could also just be that the state is processing benefits in chunks by school, so the public school’s students were processed before the charter school just by chance.

  14. Avatar
    Just Harvest May 15, 2020 at 6:14 pm #

    There is no age limit for P-EBT.

  15. Avatar
    Melissa May 15, 2020 at 8:47 pm #

    What benefit do you apply for on the Compass application? I don’t see P-EBT as a choice.

    Thanks!

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 15, 2020 at 9:01 pm #

      You need to apply for Free or Reduced-Price School Meals. Once you are found eligible for those you will be sent a P-EBT card.

      • Avatar
        Tiffany Ducker May 18, 2020 at 11:59 pm #

        What if you rec’d a letter at the beginning of the school year stating your child will be free lunch, do u still have to apply for P-EBT?

  16. Avatar
    Emily May 15, 2020 at 8:56 pm #

    Is there a Nepali version of this information?

  17. Avatar
    Cecilia May 19, 2020 at 6:20 pm #

    Hello ! I didn’t recive any help , please When can I apply for help , Snap or EBT Card , I have 2 kids

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 19, 2020 at 7:18 pm #

      If we don’t answer your question here it’s because we’ve sent you an email. Cecilia, we sent an email to your hotmail address on May 15.

  18. Avatar
    Rae May 20, 2020 at 6:08 pm #

    After I receive the P-EBT benefits, will i still get my full amount of regular monthly food stamps on June 1st as well?

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 22, 2020 at 11:08 am #

      Yes, P-EBT benefits do not affect your eligibility or benefit amount for other assistance programs.

  19. Avatar
    Joe May 24, 2020 at 12:52 pm #

    Thank you for posting this and the update. Hunger isn’t political and I appreciate what you’re doing.

  20. Avatar
    Holly D May 28, 2020 at 1:00 pm #

    I have 4 children that have been receiving free lunch for few years. Today the pebt was added to my card but it does not equal what is stated above, seems like only 2 of my kids got it. How do I get it corrected?

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest May 28, 2020 at 3:35 pm #

      If the children you didn’t receive benefits for goes to a different school, that could be why — just a difference in when the schools are processing these. You should receive these benefits on your EBT card before June 2.

      If they all go to the same school, that sounds more like a processing error. You should contact the PA Dept. of Human Services: RA-PWPEBTQuestions@pa.gov.

      • Avatar
        Holly May 28, 2020 at 11:37 pm #

        2 are elementary and 1 high school and 1 votech school. So maybe only the elementary posted. 🤔 thanks

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