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P-EBT Frequently Asked Questions

What is P-EBT?

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program was developed by Congress in Spring 2020 to help parents/guardians buy food for their children while schools were closed due to COVID-19. More P-EBT funds were issued for the 2020-2021 school year, and more are being made available for the 2021-2022 school year. The program 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 they missed while 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 Spring 2020. Although P-EBT was originally believed to be a short-term program, it 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, the Commonwealth is in the process of issuing benefits to households qualifying under the approved 2021-2022 state plan. Benefits have been issued for the school year and the final issuances for the summer 2022 (June 2022 through August 2022) will be completed by October 14, 2022.

Does my child qualify for P-EBT?

To qualify for P-EBT, your child must:

    1. Receive meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP); and
    2. Have had eligible COVID-19-related excused absences from school that caused them to not receive these meals

Your child is eligible for NSLP if they:

* Important note: All students had access to free school meals during the 2021-2022 school year due to special waivers from USDA. This does not mean all students qualify for P-EBT. These meals at school were sponsored by a different type of federal program. P-EBT relies on individual student connection to free meals through the NSLP, not their ability to get free meals from the school.

Eligible absences are determined:

  • Spring 2020 — March 16, 2020 through June 10, 2020
      • Based on child's NSLP eligibility start date because all schools closed in response to COVID-19.
  • 2020-2021 school year — September 1, 2020 through May 31, 2021
      • Based on the child's instruction models, which are simplified to Virtual, Blended, and In Person.   
  • 2021-2022 school year  September 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022
      • Child attends a school that has been closed or had reduced attendance for at least five consecutive days due to COVID-19.
      • Based on child's excused absences from school due to COVID-19; the actual number of days the child was out of the classroom, or if the school did not track COVID-19 absences, the reported period during which a child missed five or more consecutive days.

DHS worked with schools to get the necessary information to determine which students are eligible.

For 2022 Summer P-EBT, your child will qualify if they were enrolled in school through the end of the school year and was eligible for Free or Reduced-Priced meals through the NSLP. In addition, if your child was enrolled through the end of the 2021-2022 school year and still enrolled in the same school that participates in the NSLP and your child is determined eligible for NSLP over the summer (by August 21, 2022), they qualify for Summer P-EBT.

Please note, your child does NOT qualify for P-EBT if they:

  • Do not fall into one of the above categories
  • Are home schooled
  • Attend a cyber charter school
  • Are enrolled in a school that does not participate in the NSLP
      • This includes virtual academies that school districts had in place prior to the pandemic.
  • Attend a school that did not have five consecutive days of closure or reduced absence due to COVID-19 during the 2021-2022 school year

How much will my child receive?

Benefit amounts are individual and specific to the student's absences, schedule, and the school they attend. Benefit amounts are determined according to funding stage guidelines. For specific amounts, you can review the detailed benefits breakdown.

Please note, the average number of school days in 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 per day.

For Summer 2022 P-EBT, all eligible children receive $391.

What should I expect next if my child qualifies?

Around the same time that an eligible student receives a P-EBT benefit, they will also receive a DHS informational flyer by mail. The envelope for this flyer will be addressed from Pennsylvania.

Eligible students will receive P-EBT benefits in several stages:

Stage Timeframe
Spring 2020March 16, 2020 – June 10, 2020
2020-2021 School Year: Stage 1September 2020 – November 2020
2020-2021 School Year: Stage 2December 2020 – February 2021
2020-2021 School Year: Stage 3 March 2021 – May 2021
P-EBT 2021 Summer BenefitsJune 2021 – August 2021
2021-2022 School Year: Wave 1September 2021 – November 2021
2021-2022 School Year: Wave 2December 2021 – February 2022
2021-2022 School Year: Wave 3March 2022 – May 2022
P-EBT 2022 Summer Benefits June 2022 – August 2022

If your child previously received P-EBT benefits, additional P-EBT benefits will be issued on the existing EBT or P-EBT card, if possible.

If your child has NOT previously received P-EBT benefits, or if it is not possible to issue to a previously issued EBT or P-EBT card, a new P-EBT card in your child's name will be mailed to your household.  The card will arrive in a plain envelope addressed to your household with a return address from Texas. If your household has multiple children receiving P-EBT benefits, your household will receive a separate card for each child. Once you have used the Stage 1 benefits on the card, keep the card available because it will be re-used if your child qualifies for additional benefits. 

How do I use the P-EBT benefits?

If you receive a new P-EBT card, you will need to activate it by completing the following steps:

  1. Call the P-EBT hotline using the phone number on the back of the card.
  2. You will be asked to enter the full number on the front of the card. Locate and enter the number.
  3. You will then be asked if you are calling to activate a P-EBT card or a regular EBT card. Select the P-EBT option.
  4. You will then be asked to enter the last four digits of your zip code. Enter the zip code digits.
  5. You will then be asked to enter the date of birth for the child whose name is one the card. Enter the date of birth using MM/DD/YYYY.
  6. Finally, you will be asked to enter a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). Enter a PIN number. You may select any four-digit combination you want to use, but you should avoid using repetitive numbers (1111) or sequential numbers (1234).
  7. Confirm your PIN number.
  8. 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.

Once your P-EBT card is activated, it can be used at any authorized store. An approved store will have a sticker displayed in its window that says EBT. Most grocery and convenience stores are approved to accept EBT and P-EBT cards. P-EBT benefits can be used to purchase most food products, but cannot be used to purchase non-food items, alcoholic beverages, pet foods, hot foods, or hot prepared foods (such as a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store). Please note, P-EBT cards cannot be accepted by schools to pay for prepared school meals.

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. However, 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; spending any amount will cause the removal deadline 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.

How do I check the balance on my P-EBT card?

To check the balance on the card, simply call the EBT Hotline number. 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 will be asked to enter your full social security number. For a P-EBT card, you will enter your zip code using 000-00 as the first five numbers and then the last four digits of your zip code. You will then enter the child's date of birth. Families that receive the benefit on their regular EBT card can also check their SNAP balance through DHS' myCOMPASS PA mobile app.

What if I need a new P-EBT card?

If you require a replacement card and your child qualified for P-EBT for the 2021-2022 school year or the 2022 Summer P-EBT, you can request one through the new P-EBT Parent Portal. The portal will allow 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.

When you arrive at the screen to enter your child's information, you must first select the school year in the upper right-hand corner. The 2021-2022 School Year is the only available option.

If you are attempting to access the P-EBT Parent portal through your mobile device, you must first go to the COMPASS homepage at www.compass.state.pa.us. Then, you must select the View Full Site option at the bottom of the page. Finally, select the What We Offer drop down and select "2021-2022 Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer" from the lower right-hand drop-down options.

The information you enter for your child (first name, last name, and date of birth) as well as the information you enter for the guardian (first name and last name) must match exactly what was submitted by the child's school. This includes any special characters, such as hyphens or apostrophes, and spaces between multiple numbers. If you search for your child and do not get a result, you may want to try variations on spelling for the child or guardian's names or check any communications you've received in the past from the school to confirm how the child and the guardian's names are spelled according to the school's records.

Once your child's issuance has been found, there will be a box that you can select to request a replacement card. This will take you to a screen where you can enter your current address and officially submit the request. If the request is successful, you will then see a message at the top of the page confirming your request was received.

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 of COVID-19 related closure or reduced attendance, and your child had an excused absence from the classroom due to COVID-19, but you did 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.

When you arrive at the screen to enter your child's information, you must first select the school year in the upper right corner. The 2021-2022 School Year is the only available option.

If you are attempting to access the P-EBT Parent portal through your mobile device, you must first go to the COMPASS homepage at www.compass.state.pa.us. Then you must select the View Full Site option at the bottom of the page. Finally, select the What We Offer drop down and then select 2021-2022 Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer in the lower right of the options that drop down.

The information you enter for your child (first name, last name, and date of birth) as well as the information you enter for the guardian (first name and last name) must match exactly what was submitted by the child's school. This includes any special characters, such as hyphens or apostrophes, and spaces between multiple numbers. If you search for your child and do not get a result, you may want to try variations on spelling for the child or guardian's names or check any communications you've received in the past from the school to confirm how the child and the guardian's names are spelled according to the school's records.

If you check the portal and find your child was eligible, but 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, if the number of days absent due to COVID-19 displayed in the portal are incorrect, or you encounter any other issues, please contact us via one of the following methods:

  1. Call the P-EBT Hotline at 1-877-343-0179. Please have the following information on hand when you call:
    • Name(s) 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 research and resolve your issue.

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 benefits 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 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 to your new address 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 student 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 search information entered must match exactly what the school submitted. This includes:

  • The spelling of the child's first and last name, 
  • The spelling of the parent or guardian's first and last name
  • 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, 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 you are still unable to find your child after checking the spelling of your child's name, the spelling of the parent/guardian's name, and the child's date of birth, and your child was absent.

What if my child is too young to attend school?

If your child is 5 years-old or younger and receives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), they qualify for P-EBT Benefits for Childcare Age Children. Since receiving SNAP is a requirement for this group, all benefits are issued directly to the SNAP household's regular EBT card.

Please note:

  • DURING the 2020-2021 school year: If the child turned six during any of this time, the child was no longer eligible. They will receive a pro-rated benefit up through the month in which they turned six, but nothing beyond that.
      • For example: if the child turned 6 in April they would receive a pro-rated Stage 3 benefit for March and April, but would not get anything for May or the Summer P-EBT.
  • DURING the 2021-2022 school year: If a child was under six when the school year started (for the purposes of P-EBT, if a child was under 6 on September 1, 2021) they could qualify for the whole year, including summer, even once they turned six, provided they remained on SNAP benefits the whole time. A child can only receive childcare aged P-EBT benefits for months they were actually actively receiving SNAP benefits.

For information about funding amounts for childcare age children, please review the detailed benefits breakdown.