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P-EBT Frequently Asked Questions

What is P-EBT?

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) was developed by Congress and is funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The federal government makes the rules for this program. This program gives students with free and reduced-price meal benefits through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) funding for meals missed while being out of school during the pandemic. The money on these cards can be used for food only.

We first saw P-EBT in Pennsylvania in the spring of 2020. Once believed to be a short-term program has now transformed into a longer-term federal response to the national public health crisis.

Will DHS offer P-EBT in the 2021-2022 school year?

Yes, congress authorized P-EBT until the end of the Federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) including for the summer for the school year in which the PHE ends. The commonwealth is in the process of issuing benefits to households qualifying under the approved 2021-22 state plan.

Does my child qualify for P-EBT?

If your child attends a school that has been closed or reduced attendance for five consecutive days and your child receives meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and is not receiving those meals because they are absent from the classroom due to COVID-19, then they qualify for P-EBT. Your child is eligible for NSLP if your child has an approved free or reduced-price status from a household application, is directly certified by receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or certain Medical Assistance benefits through the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS), or is enrolled in a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) school. DHS will work with schools to get the necessary information to determine which students are eligible.

If your child does not fall into one of these categories, they DO NOT qualify for P-EBT. Children that are home schooled, attend a cyber charter school or are enrolled in a school that does not participate in the NSLP are not eligible for P-EBT. In addition, if your child's school did not have five consecutive days of closure or reduced attendance due to COVID-19 during the 2021-2022 school year, then no students in that school qualify for P-EBT.

If you do not know if your child attends a CEP-eligible school, please visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education NSLP website.

Important note: All students have access to free school meals this school year due to special waivers from USDA. This does NOT mean all students qualify for P-EBT. Meals at school this school year are a different type of federal program. P-EBT relies on individual student connection to free meals through the NSLP, not their ability to get up free meals from the school.

How much will my child receive?

For the 2021-22 school year, P-EBT-eligible students will receive a benefit based on the number of days they were absent from the classroom due to COVID-19 as reported by their school. Students cannot receive benefits on days they attended school in-person. The federal government does not allow for P-EBT to be calculated on the days an eligible student is receiving in-person instruction or for a day when a student was absent for any reason other than COVID-19.

Pennsylvania is also drafting and planning to submit a State Plan requesting to issue Summer P-EBT benefits to cover the period of June through August 2022 as well. This website will be updated with additional information once DHS receives approval from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

Important note: Benefit levels are individual and specific to the student's schedule and which school they attend. The average school days each month from September through May is 20 school days. The maximum daily rate for P-EBT during the 2020-21 school year is $7.10.

What should I expect next if my child qualifies?

Around the same time that an eligible student will receive the benefit, they will receive information in the form of a flyer from DHS. The envelope for this flyer is coming from Pennsylvania.

Beginning in mid to late June, eligible students will receive P-EBT benefits in several stages:

  • the first stage will provide benefits for eligible students for the months of September 2021 through November 2021, 
  • the second stage will provide benefits for eligible students for the months of December 2021-February 2022, 
  • the third stage will provide benefits for eligible students for the months of March through May 2022, and 
  • the final stage will provide benefits for eligible students for the months of June through August of 2022.  
  • Remember, the amount of benefits received for each child for each stage will vary based on the individual student's circumstances.

For households that received P-EBT previously, the benefit will be issued on your existing EBT or P-EBT card, if possible. If you have not received P-EBT previously the card will come in your child's name, so keep an eye out for a plain envelope addressed to your household. The return address on the card's envelope will be from Texas. Each child will receive their own card. Once you have used the Stage 1 benefits on the card, keep the card available because it will be re-used for additional benefits for which your child qualifies.

How do I use the P-EBT benefits?

If you receive a new P-EBT card you will need to activate it by calling the P-EBT hotline on the back of the card. You will be asked to enter the full number on the front of the card. Then you will be asked if you are calling to activate a P-EBT card or a regular EBT card. When you select the P-EBT card option, you will be asked to enter the last four digits of your zip code. You will then be asked to enter the date of birth for the child whose name is on the card.  Finally, you will be asked to enter and then confirm a four digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). You may select any four digit combination you want to use but should avoid using repetitive numbers (1111) or sequential numbers (1234).

Once you have successfully activated the card and assigned a PIN, the automated voice will tell you that the card has been activated and then disconnect the call. To check the balance on the card, simply call the EBT Hotline number again and any time after the card has been activated, you will get an automated list of options, including options to check the balance of the card, hear the last ten transactions on the card, change your PIN, or dispute charges. You can also check your balance through or the ConnectEBT mobile app. To create your account, you'll be asked to enter your full social security number but will need to use 000-00 as the first five numbers and then the last four digits of your zip code as the last four numbers and then use the child's date of birth. Families that receive the benefit onto their regular EBT card can also check their SNAP balance through DHS' myCOMPASS PA mobile app.

The P-EBT benefits will remain in the SNAP account for nine months after the account is no longer used. For example, if the benefits are loaded in May and never used, they will be removed in February. But if a portion of those benefits are used in July, then the balance will remain on the card until April. It does not matter how much or little of the P-EBT benefit is used, any amount will cause the removal clock to reset.

Once benefits have been removed from the card after nine months of inactivity, they cannot be reissued.

If you receive P-EBT benefits for your child and do not wish to participate, simply destroy and throw away the card.

What if I need a new P-EBT card?

P-EBT benefits for the current school year will start to be issued in mid to late June, 2022. 

If you require a replacement card you can request one through the new P-EBT Parent Portal. The portal will allow for parents to check if their child was eligible for P-EBT based on the information the schools submitted and an automated process for requesting replacement cards.

What if I don't receive a P-EBT benefit?

If your child was eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the NSLP; your child's school had at least five consecutive days closed or at reduced attendance, and was absent from the classroom due to COVID-19 and you do not receive a benefit, you should first check the P-EBT Parent Portal to see if your child was determined eligible for a benefit or not. If you find your child was eligible through the portal and you are not actively receiving SNAP benefits, you may need to request a replacement card through the new automated process. If you cannot find your child through the portal, or if the number of days absent due to COVID-19 showing in the portal is not correct, or for any other issues,, please contact us by one of the following methods:

  1. Call the P-EBT Hotline at 484-363-2137. Have the following information on hand 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
  2. Submit an inquiry through DHS' P-EBT Inquiry Form. Please fill out as much information as possible on the form as this will help us to research your issue and try to resolve it.

P-EBT eligibility is based on data from your child’s school. If the school indicates that the school did not meet the program’s school closure or absence criteria, or the child did not have excused absences related to COVID-19 P-EBT cannot be issued.

What if my household moved and didn't report it to the school or just moved recently?

If you set up mail forwarding with the post office, you should still receive the card. We've confirmed that the card envelopes do not have language indicating they cannot be forwarded, so the post office will deliver them to the new forwarding address that they have on file. 

If mail forwarding is not an option, you will be able to use the new automated process available through the P-EBT Parent Portal to request a replacement card if your child is eligible for P-EBT benefits for the 2021-2022 school year.

What if I do not get any results in the P-EBT Parent Portal, but I think my child was eligible for P-EBT?

The P-EBT Parent Portal uses the exact information that the school provided in their submission file for the 2021-2022 school year. 

In order for a search to be successful, the child must be eligible for P-EBT in an issuance stage that has been completed or is in process, and the information entered must match exactly what the school submittedThis includes:

  • the spelling of the child’s first and last name, 
  • the spelling of the parent or guardian’s first and last name, and 
  • the child’s date of birth. 

If any of these items do not match what the school submitted, the portal will say that an issuance for the child cannot be found.

For example, if your child did not have any absences due to COVID-19 until December 2021, the portal will not return any results until Stage 2 benefits are in process. 

As another example, if your child’s date of birth is 07/04/2005, but the file submitted by the school shows 04/07/2005, you will get a message that the child could not be found.

If your child’s school did not submit a file, your child was in a Paid status for the National School Lunch Program and did not attend a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) school, or did not miss any days due to COVID-19, then your child is not considered eligible for P-EBT.

If, after checking the spelling of your child’s name and the parent or guardian’s name and the child’s date of birth, you are not able to find your child, and your child was absent due to COVID-19 in the Stage being issued, please contact the P-EBT Hotline at 484-363-2137. Have the following information on hand 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. Please fill out as much information as possible on the form as this will help us to research your issue and try to resolve it.