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.

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 Benefits | P-EBT Problems | Other Questions about P-EBT

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 been absent from in-person learning for 5 or more days in a row due to COVID-19 for any of the following reasons: 
    • their school, grade, or classroom closed due to COVID-19, OR 
    • your child tested positive for COVID-19, had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 (resulting in a need to quarantine), OR 
    • 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 brick and mortar school, 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 home school, 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
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?

If your child meets the eligibility criteria described above, the amount of P-EBT you receive will depend on how many school days your child had an excused absence from school for COVID-related reasons. PA schools will report this information to the state, and the state will use that information to provide benefits.  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). 

  • 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 Pennsylvania cannot verify the child as an active recipient of SNAP, the benefit will be issued on a P-EBT card. 

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 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) will post this payment to eligible families’ existing P-EBT cards and SNAP cards sometime in late June or early July. 
    • If you need to request a replacement card, there will be a new, more automated way to request that online sometime in June.  
    • 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. New cards will go out when DHS begins to issue Stage 1 payments. We don’t know when they’ll arrive.
  • Stage 2: The 2nd payment will cover December 2021 through February 2022. DHS will begin issuing these payments in a 10-day period starting sometime in July. 
  • 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 July or August. 

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 the three 3-month payments for the 9 months of September through May.

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

Currently, DHS cannot track when your card is coming. DHS will be launching a website where you will be able to check to see when your most recent P-EBT card was mailed out. This will likely launch in July 2022. 

This website will not include a mail tracking feature. 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 yet have an approved plan to issue P-EBT benefits for the meals children need during the summer months when they are not in school. While P-EBT for the school year will be going out during June and July, and possibly later, this is not “Summer P-EBT”.  We will update this section when there is an 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 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 000-0X-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

What if I lost my card?

Pennsylvania is creating a new P-EBT online portal for parents and guardians to check if their child was eligible for P-EBT in the 2021-2022 school year, and if so, for how much. This new website will also allow the parent/guardian to request a replacement P-EBT card through a more automatic process, ensuring that replacement cards can be mailed as quickly as the P-EBT process allows. 

What if I received the wrong benefit amount?

DHS will have a live P-EBT hotline with a voicemail option. The hotline can answer basic questions and allow a parent or guardian to dispute the number of days that the school reported their child was absent due to COVID-19.

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.

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 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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