We will continue to update this page when we have new info and will put the date of the most recent updates at the top. You may need to clear the cache on your browser to see the latest version of this page.
June 2, 2021 update: Any red text below, and the entire sections What if I received the wrong benefit amount? and Is there a way to track when my card will arrive?
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.
P-EBT for School-Age Children
Am I Eligible for P-EBT?
My child is enrolled in a K-12 school
To qualify for P-EBT, your child must:
- have had a reduced number of in-person learning days this school year AND
- 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 schools 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.
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).
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 the state processes your application some time during the 2020-21 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.
How will I get P-EBT?
For families who also receive SNAP (food stamps), the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) tried to post P-EBT to their SNAP EBT card in May. If they couldn’t match your child’s school information to your SNAP case, 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.
The state will send new P-EBT cards to all other families who qualify.
About P-EBT cards:
- Be on the lookout for an envelope with your child’s name from Texas (where the card is manufactured).
- 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. In May, the state began issuing the first benefits payment for the 2020-21 school year to people currently receiving SNAP. Due to an abundance of caution and problems with data matching children’s school records and family’s SNAP accounts during the spring 2020 P-EBT distribution, DHS decided to issue a P-EBT card in the case of any discrepancy in data matching. If the P-EBT benefits haven’t posted to your SNAP card yet, then you are most likely getting a new white P-EBT card in the mail and should have it by the end of June.
Benefits distribution timeline:
- The 1st payment will cover the months of September through November 2020. PA Dept. of Human Services began issuing these payments May 10.
- If you receive SNAP benefits: P-EBT should have been loaded onto your SNAP card by the end of May. If DHS was unable to match your school’s information to your SNAP case, they will send you a card for each child instead.
- If you are sent a P-EBT card: Roughly 850,000 P-EBT cards are getting mailed in Pennsylvania. Other states will also be using the same card company, and there may be postal delays. They are supposed to finish making and mailing them all by the end of June 5, but you may not receive your card until the end of June.
- 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.
- There is no payment for June 2021. To simplify payments for this school year, the 180 school days were divided up evenly into the three 3-month payments for the 9 months of September through May.
Is there a way to track when my card will arrive?
DHS will not be able to track when your card is coming. You can use USPS’s informed delivery service to see what is coming in your mail.
Summer P-EBT for School-Age Children
Congress has authorized P-EBT to cover the summer months. Federal guidance says that states are to provide the full P-EBT benefit amount to all students who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. This includes:
- graduating seniors and students who were in person all school year; and
- students who first sign up and get approved for free/reduced-price meals during the summer.
We do not yet know when PA will make these payments for school-age children. We will update this page when we have that information.
P-EBT for Kids Ages 0-5
To support families who lost meals due to child care closures, Congress has authorized P-EBT benefits for children ages 0 to 5 who receive SNAP starting October 1, 2020. The USDA approved Pennsylvania’s plan to distribute P-EBT for young children on April 8, 2021. Children ages 0 through 5 who received SNAP at some point since October 1, 2021 will be eligible for P-EBT for the month they received SNAP benefits, so long as schools in your area had a modified learning schedule.
Because our state has no way of tracking child care closures, the state is choosing to follow the schedule of a school in your county, or the nearest county, that has had the fewest in-person learning days in order to maximize the benefits that families receive. Even if your child is able to go to in-person childcare and receives meals there, you will still be eligible for P-EBT if schools in your area were partially closed.
- If a school in your county or a nearby county was fully closed, you will receive the full benefit amount of $136.40 per month.
- If a school in your region is operating partially in-person and partially online, you will receive the hybrid benefit of $88.66 per month.
- If all schools in your area are fully open, you will not receive an additional benefit for that month.
The benefits will post to your SNAP EBT card, even if you are no longer receiving SNAP. If you need to request a new card, call either 1-877-395-8930 or 1-888-328-7366 to request a new EBT card. You will only receive P-EBT benefits for the months when your SNAP case was active and for the months where your child was included in your SNAP household.
When will I get these P-EBT payments?
The state plans to issue payments for young children two weeks after each payment is made to school-age children. As we get closer to knowing more about when payments will go out, we will update this page. We do know that the state plans to issue the first round of these payments sometime in June.
What about summer P-EBT for this age group?
Congress has authorized P-EBT to cover the summer months. Federal guidance says that states are to provide the full P-EBT benefit amount for these months to all children ages 0-5 who receive SNAP.
- Children that are signed up for SNAP by the end of summer will be eligible for the full summer amount. This includes babies born during the summer. (Be sure to add them to your SNAP case!)
- We do not yet know when PA will make these payments. We will update this page when we have that info.
How to Use P-EBT cards
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 at any retailer that accepts SNAP benefits, 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
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.
What if I lost my card?
You can request a replacement card at www.emergencymealsurvey.com/PA
What if I received the wrong benefit amount?
If your child is eligible for P-EBT but you haven’t received a P-EBT card for them by the end of June then you should do one of the following:
- Submit an inquiry through the PA DHS P-EBT Inquiry Form. Fill it out with as much information as possible!
- Call 484-363-2137 and leave a voicemail with the following info:
- Names of your child(ren)
- Child(ren) date(s) of birth
- School or school district they attend
- Contact phone number
- Contact email address
- Current mailing address
- A brief description of the issue
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.
- The state is now saying it may take them up to 30 days to respond to your error report.
- Please do not report not receiving a card before June 30th. It may take until then for you to receive your card. People who report that they are missing benefits when in fact they’ve just not shown up yet will clog up the reporting system. This will prevent the state from helping people with real benefits errors in a timely way.
- The state will not issue replacement cards before July.
Other Questions about P-EBT
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.
How can I help make sure all eligible PA families get P-EBT?
Due to data errors and a lack of awareness, not everyone who should have received P-EBT last year did. You can help spread the word about P-EBT, including through social media graphics in seven different languages, using our toolkit.
If you can’t find your answer, please fill out this form; you will receive a response by email.
If you live in Philadelphia you can contact Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger for more info (Kathy Fisher, firstname.lastname@example.org). We thank the Coalition for their contributions to this info.