FAQ about Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) for the 2021-2022 school year in Pennsylvania

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. The FAQ for the 2020-21 school year P-EBT is here.

July 27, 2002 update:
Did your P-EBT card get deactivated last week? Yesterday, PA Dept. of Human Services (DHS) told us that there were about 69,000 P-EBT cards inadvertently deactivated when they went to issue the Stage 2 benefits. This appears to primarily be affecting people who didn’t get a Stage 1 P-EBT payment for this school year and were supposed to get their first payment in July for December-February absences.

  • DHS will be replacing all of the deactivated cards automatically. New cards should be received in approximately two to three weeks, depending on the post office.
  • You can go to www.connectebt.com to see if your P-EBT card has been deactivated. It’s been reported that when the status of your card says “Mail Pan” then your replacement card is on its way. You can also call the number on your card to see if your card has been deactivated.

Due to this, there is a delay in DHS’s completion of the 2nd round of P-EBT issuances, which they expect to continue until the evening of July 29, 2022.

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 were issued to families for the 2020-2021 school year, and more are being made available for the 2021-2022 school year.

P-EBT for School-Age Children | P-EBT for Kids Ages 0-5 | How to Use P-EBT Cards | P-EBT Problems | Other Questions about P-EBT

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P-EBT for School-Age Children

Am I eligible for these P-EBT benefits?

To qualify for P-EBT, your child must:

  1. be enrolled in the Free and Reduced-Price school meals program AND
  2. have had eligible COVID-related absences from school or COVID-related school closures. Please note: No student can receive P-EBT benefits for any COVID-related absence at their school of 1-4 days until a student had a COVID-related absence at their school of 5 days or more in a row. So, for example, if due to COVID your child missed 2 days of school in October, another two in December, and one day in January, but no child at that school had 5 consecutive days absent due to COVID until March, your child will not get P-EBT benefits for their COVID-related absences before March. “COVID-related” absence includes:
    • their school, grade, or classroom closed due to COVID-19,
    • your child tested positive for COVID-19, had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 (resulting in a need to quarantine),
    • you chose to keep your child at home due to COVID-19 concerns. It doesn’t matter if your school allowed in-person instruction; if you opted for virtual instruction due to COVID-related concerns and your child was still enrolled in a bricks-and-mortar school with in-person instruction, your child is eligible for P-EBT as long as they meet the other eligibility criteria.

To be enrolled in Free or Reduced-Price school meals, your child must be enrolled at a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program (you can check the PA list of such schools here); AND:

You can read about how to apply for school meals and check the income guidelines below on this page.

Children 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 schools 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 a virtual learning program your child’s in-person school is offering due to the pandemic. If you’re not sure whether your child has been disenrolled from their in-person school and enrolled in your district’s cyber school, please contact your school.

Do I need to apply for Free or Reduced-Price meals?

Almost all schools have been giving out free school meals to all students through pandemic-related provisions. This doesn’t mean your child is signed up for the national Free and Reduced-Price School Meals program.

As explained above, your child will need to be signed up for the Free and Reduced-Price School Meals program in order to receive P-EBT benefits for any excused absences of five days in a row or more. Your child will not receive P-EBT for any absences that occurred before they were signed up for Free or Reduced-Price meals.

Unless your child attends a CEP school (a school that automatically allows all its students to get free in-person school meals through the Free and Reduced-Price School Meals program), you will want to make sure your child is enrolled in Free or Reduced-Price school meals, especially if:

  • your child is a new student, such as a Kindergartner or has changed schools; OR
  • you don’t think they were ever signed up for the Free and Reduced-Price School Meal program at their current school.
Income Limits for Reduced Price Meals for the 2021-2022 School Year
HOUSEHOLD SIZE YEARLY INCOME MONTHLY INCOME
1 $25,142 $2,096
2 $33,874 $2,823
3 $42,606 $3,551
4 $51,338 $4,279
5 $60,070 $5,006
Each additional family member +$8,732 +$725

If you need to apply your child to the Free or Reduced-Price School Meals program, please do so immediately. Even if you missed out on this benefit during the school year, you should apply so that you can become eligible for Summer P-EBT for this summer. Please see the maximum income allowed per household in the chart.

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.

Curious about applying for SNAP? Learn more here.

How much will I receive?

Families will get $7.10 in P-EBT benefits for each day a child that meets the eligibility criteria above and has an excused absence from school for COVID-related reasons. For example, if your child missed five days of school in October and seven days in November due to COVID-19, you would get $85.20 ($7.10 x 12).

PA schools will report this information to the state, and the state will use that information to provide benefits.

  • The school will report the exact number of days the student was absent due to COVID-19 or had an excused absence, for a minimum of 5 days per month and to a maximum of 20 days per month (60 days total per quarter).
  • If a school (or just a grade or classroom) was forced to close or operate virtually due to a COVID-19 reason, the student will be considered to have been absent for the specific number of days that the school (or grade or classroom) was closed.

How will I get P-EBT?

Example of Pennsylvania P-EBT cardIf Pennsylvania can identify the EBT or P-EBT cards that your child received the 2020-21 P-EBT on, they will issue this round of P-EBT to that card. If DHS doesn’t have a SNAP or P-EBT card number associated with your child, they will mail out a card for the payment to the address the school provided for your child.

The P-EBT card will be the same design that Pennsylvania used for previous P-EBT issuances: a white P-EBT card that specifically states “Pennsylvania” on the front of the card.

About new P-EBT cards:

  • Be on the lookout for your child’s name on an envelope from Texas (where the card is manufactured).
  • Families can expect to receive one card for each eligible child.
  • Your school will provide 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 once you’ve spent the benefits in case any future payments post to that card.

When will I receive these P-EBT benefits?

On April 19, 2022, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture approved Pennsylvania’s plan to provide P-EBT benefits to students for the 2021-22 school year. The school year is divided into 4 quarters, with four payments total. The benefits will be issued over three 10-day periods. Benefits distribution timeline:

  • Stage 1: The 1st payment will cover September through November 2021. PA Dept. of Human Services (DHS) began posting this payment to eligible families’ existing P-EBT cards and SNAP cards starting June 24.
    • You can check if DHS has your child down for a payment using using DHS’s parent portal on a desktop computer. If your child shows up as being eligible for a payment, you can then request a replacement card, using the portal’s automated form. (For help with problems in using the portal, see the P-EBT Problems section below.)  
    • If DHS doesn’t have a SNAP or P-EBT card number associated with your child, they will mail out a card for the payment to the address the school provided for your child. Your new card should arrive within six weeks, by early August. (For help with lost cards, see the P-EBT Problems section below.)  
  • Stage 2: The 2nd payment will cover December 2021 through February 2022. DHS began posting this payment to eligible families’ existing P-EBT cards and SNAP cards in mid-July. Distribution will end the evening of July 29.
  • Stage 3: The 3rd payment will cover March through May 2021. DHS will begin issuing these payments in a 10-day period starting sometime in August.
  • Stage 4: The fourth payment is to cover the summer of June through August 2022. Summer P-EBT has slightly different rules and more details about that benefit are provided below.

There is no payment for the school days of June 2021. To simplify payments for this school year, the 180 school days were divided up evenly into three 3-month payments for the nine months of September through May.

Is there a way to track when my card will arrive?

DHS cannot 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

PA does not have an officially approved plan to issue P-EBT benefits for the meals that children need during summer months when they are not in school. However, the state committed to do so.

Summer P-EBT is a flat payment for all children who:

  • finished the school year at a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program, AND
  • were signed up for free or reduced-price meals during the school year, or have applied for free or reduced-price meals before summer ends.

We will update this section with the amount and expected payment dates when there is an officially approved plan.

P-EBT for Kids Ages 0-5

PA has yet to have an approved plan for kids ages 0-5. We will update this section when there is an approved plan.

How to Use P-EBT cards

How will I activate my P-EBT 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. For example, if your zip code is 15219, you’d enter 5219.
  • Then enter the child’s date of birth using the two-digit month + two-digit day + four-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 you created the PIN 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 000-0X-XXXX with the X’s as the five 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

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, Giant, Giant Eagle, ShopRite, and Walmart. However, like SNAP, you can’t use P-EBT to pay for delivery fees. Learn more here.

P-EBT Problems

The parent portal isn’t working.

It seems the P-EBT parent portal doesn’t work on certain mobile devices. We have reported this problem to PA DHS. In the meantime, try to access the portal on a desktop computer on a browser that allows pop-ups.

I can’t find my child on the parent portal, what does that mean?

First, the P-EBT parent portal will also only show information for children who were found eligible for one of the P-EBT payments that have already started to go out. It will not show dollar amounts for future payments that haven’t started. So, if your child didn’t have any COVID-related absences in September 2021 through February of 2022, your child will not show up yet in the system because the third payment for absences from March to May hasn’t been issued yet.

The P-EBT parent portal uses exact data matching to look up your child’s information. The following things have to match how they would appear in your child’s school system:

  • Child’s first name and last name (If your child’s name has spaces, hyphens, or apostrophes, but the school record doesn’t include those, try typing it without those.)
  • Child’s birthdate
  • Primary guardian’s name (you might need to try the other parent’s name if the information isn’t showing up.)
  • Make sure you also select the year in the top right School Year field.

If you’ve tried all of those combinations and still can’t find your child’s information, you will need to reach out to DHS to have them look into what happened with your child’s benefit.

Call the P-EBT Hotline at 484-363-2137 during business hours (8 am – 4 pm). As of this posting, we often hear from parents that hold times are three hours or longer and that people are frequently disconnected. When people are able to reach hotline staff, however, they are helped. Have the following information available when you call:

  • 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
  • The specific days when your child was out of school due to COVID-19

Or you can submit an inquiry through DHS’ P-EBT Inquiry Form,  filling out as much information as possible on the form.

What if I received the wrong benefit amount?

If the amount that you are receiving seems wrong, you will need to contact DHS. You can call the P-EBT Hotline at 484-363-2137 during business hours (8 am – 4 pm). As of this posting, we often hear from parents that hold times are three hours or longer and that calls are frequently disconnected. When people are able to reach hotline staff, however, they are helped. Have the following information available when you call:

  • 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
  • The specific days when your child was out of school due to COVID-19

Or you can submit an inquiry through DHS’ P-EBT Inquiry Form,  filling out as much information as possible on the form.

What if I lost my card?

The fastest way to get a replacement card is by using the parent portal. After looking up your child’s information, click on “Request a Replacement P-EBT Card” in the top righthand corner. Then fill out the information so PA DHS can send you a new card through their cardmaker in Texas.

What if I never got P-EBT for the end of the 2020-21 school year?

If you never received a card last year, you can still request DHS to look into what happened by using the PA DHS P-EBT Inquiry Form or calling the P-EBT hotline at 484-363-2137. Make sure you note that you are inquiring about benefits from the 2020-21 school year.

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 begin to 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.

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.

Federal rules don’t allow recipients to transfer this benefit 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 using our toolkit, which includes a flier and social media content (with some material in seven different languages).

Further questions?

If you live in Philadelphia you can contact Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger for more info (Katie Milholin, kmilholin@hungercoalition.org). We thank the Coalition for their contributions to this info.

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2 Responses to FAQ about Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) for the 2021-2022 school year in Pennsylvania

  1. Avatar
    Summeri chavis May 22, 2022 at 12:41 pm #

    If your child went to school all school year for 21-22 will they still qualify for summer p-ebt. How much will it be and when will we receive it if approved.

    • Avatar
      Just Harvest July 18, 2022 at 5:12 pm #

      We are still waiting for details from the state on who will be eligible for Summer P-EBT for June-August 2022. We’ll post that info on this page once it’s available. The amount is reported to be around $390 and parents who find their children in the P-EBT Parent Portal will also see info about this deposit.

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