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 committed to making these benefits available to households in need.
We do not yet have an approved state plan to issue P-EBT in the 2021-2022 school year but we will provide additional information to student households when we do.
Does my child qualify for P-EBT?
If your child attends a school that has been closed or reduced attendance or hours 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 not having in-person classes, 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. There is no application for P-EBT. 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.
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?
P-EBT requirements and benefits for the 2021-22 school year will be released after the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves Pennsylvania’s state P-EBT plan for this school year.
For the 2020-21 school year, P-EBT-eligible students received a benefit based on whether they were 100 percent virtual, 100 percent in-person, or some combination of virtual and in-person. Students could not 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.
If a student was 100 percent virtual for a month, they received 100 percent of the P-EBT benefit for that month. If a student was 100 percent in-person for a month, they did not receive any P-EBT benefit for that month. If they received a combination of virtual and in-person for a month, they received 65 percent of the P-EBT benefit for that month for the months of September 2020-February 2021. Based on a survey of schools operating in a combination of virtual and in-person learning, students receiving a combination of virtual and in-person learning will receive 30 percent of the P-EBT benefit for the months of March, April, and May in 2021. Benefits can only be calculated on days when remote learning is taking place.
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 was is $6.82. This means that the monthly amount from September 2020 through May 2021 was $136.40 for a fully virtual student; the monthly amount for a student attending some days in person and some days virtual was $88.66. This monthly amount may change for the months of March, April and May 2021.
What should I expect next if my child qualifies?
Around the same time that an eligible student will receive the card, they will receive information in the form of a flyer from DHS. The envelope for this flyer is coming from Pennsylvania.
Beginning in the late Spring, eligible students will receive P-EBT benefits in three stages; the first stage will provide benefits for eligible students for the months of September 2020 through November 2020, the second stage will provide benefits for eligible students for the months of December 2020-February 2021, and the third stage will provide benefits for eligible students for the months of March through May 2021. Stage 1 was completed on May 21, 2021. Stage 2 began around the second week of June, and Stage 3 will begin in July. Remember, the amount of benefits received for each child for each phase will vary based on the individual student's circumstances. 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. If you have not received your card(s) by July 15, please call the resource line or complete the online inquiry form. 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 your child is currently receiving SNAP or TANF benefits, the P-EBT funds will be loaded onto your regular Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card into your normal SNAP account, if possible. When you check your SNAP balance, you will not be able to tell the difference between a SNAP deposit and a P-EBT deposit. The P-EBT deposit will have no impact to your regular SNAP or TANF benefits.
If DHS cannot load the benefit onto a SNAP or TANF family's regular EBT card for any reason, or if your child is not receiving SNAP or TANF benefits, a new P-EBT card will be mailed in your child's name. If you have multiple children in your household, you will receive multiple cards, but each card will be in each child's name. Once you receive the 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 to enter the last four digits of your social security number. Instead of the last four digits of your social security number, you will need to enter the last four digits of your five digit zip code. You will then be asked to enter your date of birth. Instead, enter the date of birth of 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 www.connectebt.com 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. If you do not receive your card(s) by July 15, please call the resource line or complete the online inquiry form.
What if I Have Not Received my P-EBT or have an issue with my P-EBT?
P-EBT benefits for the current school year will start being issued on May 10, 2021. Due to the large number of cards that must be mailed, it may take until mid-July for you to receive your card. Please wait until July 15, 2021, to report not receiving a card for your child. If you've received your card and are having difficulties activating it or think the benefit amount is incorrect, please review the activation instructions as described above under "How do I use the P-EBT benefit?," and if this does not resolve your issue, please use one of the methods below. The previous issuance of P-EBT was completed in the late spring and summer of 2020. That issuance was a one-time payment only. It was not a monthly issuance, so if you received a single P-EBT payment, that was all that your child was eligible for during that time.
The benefit removal period for last year's issuances was six months and was explained in the letter that DHS sent to eligible families separate from the card. Similarly, once the benefits are removed for inactivity, they cannot be reissued. The only exception is for families that never received the initial card or benefit due to incorrect information being received in the initial issuances.
The P-EBT cards for last year are activated using the same rules as described above under "How do I use the P-EBT benefit?"
Homeschooled children, children enrolled in a cyber charter school, or children attending a school that didn't participate in the NSLP were not eligible for P-EBT under last year's issuance.
If you didn't receive a benefit for your child for the spring 2020 issuance and your child was eligible for free or reduced-price meals through the NSLP, please contact us by one of the following methods:
DHS is currently in the process of transitioning to a live P-EBT Hotline. This process will take a few weeks and there may be interruptions in the voicemail availability during this transition. If you call the voicemail number below and receive a
number not in service message, please either wait and try again later or use
DHS' P-EBT Inquiry Form. Thank you for your patience.
Call the resource line at 484-363-2137 and leave a voicemail. Have the following information on hand when you call:
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.
Names of your child(ren)
Child(ren) date(s) of birth
or school district they attend
Contact phone number
Current mailing address
A brief description of the issue
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 can use one of the methods to described above to report an issue. However, replacement cards will not be sent until July to ensure that all Stage 1 cards have time to be created, mailed and received.