Certain families who are eligible for Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program retroactively for the 2021-2022 school year due to COVID-19-related absences have begun to receive benefits.
P-EBT, developed by Congress and funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), helps families cover the cost of breakfasts and lunches their children would have been eligible to receive for free or at reduced price through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
Once believed to be a short-term program, P-EBT has now transformed into a longer-term federal response to the national public health crisis. We first saw P-EBT in Pennsylvania in the spring of 2020. The program was re-authorized last year to cover the entire 2020-21 school year. A new round of P-EBT has been approved for Pennsylvania for the 2021-2022 school year by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
Receiving P-EBT does not affect immigration status or eligibility for other DHS benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid (Medical Assistance, or MA, in Pennsylvania).
Learn more about P-EBT in Pennsylvania at dhs.pa.gov/P-EBT
P-EBT Parent Portal
Haven’t received your card or need a replacement?
The new P-EBT Parent Portal allows parents to check their child’s eligibility for benefits based on information that schools have submitted for the 2021-2022 school year and begin the automated process for requesting P-EBT cards. Families with eligible children will also be able to request a replacement through the portal.
1. Who is eligible for P-EBT?
For the 2021-2022 school year, school children who receive free or reduced-price school meals through NSLP are potentially eligible for these P-EBT benefits. P-EBT-eligible students will receive a benefit based on the number of days they were absent from the classroom due to COVID-19 if:
- The child’s school was closed or had reduced hours for at least five (5) consecutive days due to COVID-19; and
- The student was absent from the classroom due to COVID-19.
P-EBT eligibility is based on data provided by schools. 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.
2. Applying for NSLP
Families of students who entered kindergarten in Fall 2021 or entered a different school district for the 2021-2022 school year can fill out an application for free or reduced-price school meals by visiting your school district’s website or by applying through COMPASS.
P-EBT Benefits Basics
1. When will I receive my benefits?
Eligible students will receive P-EBT benefits distribution in several stages:
- First Stage: June/July 2022 — Currently being issued; provides benefits to students who were eligible between September 2021 and November 2021.
- Second Stage: Mid- to late July — The second stage will provide benefits to students who were eligible between December 2021 and February 2022.
- Third Stage: Mid- to late-August: The third stage will provide benefits to students who were eligible between March and May 2022.
If a student does not receive a benefit in the first stage, it does not mean that they will not receive a benefit in further stages. Students who receive P-EBT benefits in the first stage do not make up the total number of students who are potentially eligible for P-EBT.
2. How will I receive my benefits?
The Department of Human Services (DHS) will be loading the student’s 2021-2022 benefits onto current P-EBT cards. Families who have previously received and activated P-EBT cards should keep them as DHS will be reusing these cards, if possible, based on the information the schools submitted. Parents who have a standard EBT card for other benefits such as SNAP and cash assistance and have children who were deemed eligible for P-EBT will have their P-EBT benefits loaded to their EBT card, if possible.
3. How much will I receive?
The benefit amount for each eligible student for each stage will vary based on the individual student’s circumstances. The maximum daily rate for P-EBT during the 2021-22 school year is $7.10.
Families can use their P-EBT benefits to purchase almost any unprepared food item in participating grocery stores or food markets that accept EBT, and the program follows the same rules as SNAP for eligible purchases.
P-EBT Questions & Assistance
Families needing further assistance, seeking answers to questions about P-EBT eligibility, or needing to report an issue have multiple ways of contacting DHS:
- Online P-EBT Frequently Asked Questions: DHS P-EBT Guide
- Submit an Online Inquiry: DHS P-EBT Inquiry Form
- Eligibility & Card Assistance: P-EBT Parent Portal
- Call the P-EBT Hotline: 484-363-2137
Please fill out as much information as possible on the above forms, as this will help DHS to research an issue and try to resolve it.