Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT)
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
What is P-EBT?
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 provided temporary benefits, referred to as P-EBT, to families of school-aged children who would have received free or reduced-priced meals through the USDA National School Lunch
Program (NSLP) if school had not been affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. These benefits were issued in late Spring/Summer of 2020. A second issuance of P-EBT was authorized by Congress for the 2020-2021 school year. This second issuance will provide the equivalent monetary amount for school breakfast, lunch, and snack to families of students who are enrolled in schools participating in the NSLP but are not attending in person due to COVID-19. For the issuance this school year, Pennsylvania will distribute benefits to about 928,000 children
– for a total distribution of about $1 billion.
Who is eligible to receive P-EBT benefits?
P-EBT benefits are only available to students who are eligible for free and reduced-price school meals or attend a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) school, enrolled in a school which participates in the NSLP, and for school days the eligible student was/is not receiving in-person instruction (school closures, virtual/remote instruction, absences, quarantine, etc.). The USDA has approved a simplifying assumption that allows Pennsylvania to issue a standard partial benefit amount across the state for students that were/are both in person and virtual (blended).
Who is not eligible to receive P-EBT benefits?
Children are not eligible to receive P-EBT benefits if they:
• attend in person on all school days;
• are home schooled;
• attend cyber charter school (this does not include virtual/remote learning under the operational control of a school board);
• attend a school in another state (i.e., NY, NJ, MD, OH); or
• attend a school that does not participate in NSLP.
When will P-EBT benefits be issued to families?
Benefits will be issued in three separate stages:
• Benefits for September – November 2020: Issued late Spring 2021
• Benefits for December 2020 – February 2021: Issued in second and third week of June 2021
• Benefits for March – May 2021: Issued in third and fourth week of July 2021
Children whose families already receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits will receive the P-EBT benefits on the household’s regular EBT card, if possible. Otherwise, students will receive a new P-EBT card in the eligible student’s name.
How much will each eligible student receive?
Each student will receive $6.82 for each day they were not attending school in person. This will range from 0-180 school days. Benefits will be issued based on September 2020 – May 2021, using an average of 20 school days/month (9 months x 20 days =180 days). The USDA has approved a simplifying assumption that allows Pennsylvania to issue a partial standard benefit for all students in a blended learning model (in-person and virtual). The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) will calculate the benefits each student will receive based on data the school provides.
Will schools be required to submit data in order for DHS to determine which students are eligible for P-EBT benefits?
Yes. Schools will be asked to submit data twice using a data collection template. The data collection periods are:
First Data Collection:
• For the months of September 2020 – February 2021
• Due no later than April 24, 2021
Second Data Collection:
• For the months of March 2021 – May 2021
• Due no later than July 2, 2021.
If a student only recently became eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, when does their P-EBT eligibility begin?
USDA is allowing a student who is determined eligible at any point in the school year to be considered eligible for P-EBT for the full school year, based on the student’s mode of instruction (Virtual, Blended, or In-Person). As a part of the data collection for P-EBT, schools only need to capture whether the child is eligible for free or reduced-price meals, not when the student’s NSLP eligibility began.
What is the Local Education Agency (LEA)/School Food Authority’s (SFA) role in P-EBT?
The LEA/SFA must:
• Complete the data collection template accurately using only the format provided. The data dictionary provides details about each field.
• Submit the data by the required deadline. If a school does not submit the report on time, the students will not be considered eligible for P-EBT for that stage of benefits.
• Provide data for EVERY enrolled student (partial or full-time) on both the 1st and data collection. DHS will determine if the student is eligible for benefits and how much.
• Upload the data collection template. The data transmission system will run preliminary checks for complete files and reject files that are not complete. As necessary, correct any errors and re-upload.
Are Residential Child Care Institutions (RCCI) required to submit the data collection template?
Yes. RCCI’s that have an agreement with PDE to participate in the NSLP must complete and submit the data collection template. DHS will determine if students are eligible for P-EBT benefits based on the data provided.
My school is not currently serving meals through the NSLP. Are we required to submit the data collection template?
Yes. All schools that have an agreement with PDE to participate in the NSLP must complete and submit the data collection template even if they are not currently serving meals through NSLP because they have paused meal service, are serving meals
through the Summer Food Service Program or Seamless Summer Option, or do not believe they have students eligible for P-EBT. DHS will determine if students are eligible to receive P-EBT based on the data submitted.
What is the role of DHS in P-EBT?
After receiving the data from the IU, DHS will remove any duplicate students, review students who are listed as “Paid” status and determine if they received P-EBT benefits in school year 2019-2020. If the student received P-EBT benefits last school year, they will also receive P-EBT benefits for current school year 2020-2021. DHS will do this cross match; schools do not need to do it. Additionally, DHS will calculate the P-EBT benefits based on data provided in the data template from the school, issue benefits, and maintain the Customer Service Call Center and website for the public. This DHS Customer Service Call Center is for the public and they will not be able to assist schools with data collection questions.
How will the P-EBT cards be distributed?
Children whose families already receive SNAP or TANF benefits will receive P-EBT benefits on the household’s regular EBT card, if possible. Parents can check card balances at www.connectebt.com or calling 1-888-328-7366. P-EBT-eligible students who do not currently receive SNAP or TANF benefits will receive their benefits on a white card marked with “Pennsylvania” on the front. All students will receive a new card on their first issuance for the 2020-21 school year, even if they received a P-EBT card during the 2019-2020 P-EBT issuance. Each student will receive a card. For example: a family with 3 eligible students will receive 3 separate cards. Cards will be mailed in the student's name to the address provided for the primary parent/guardian. This mailing will be coming from Texas in a non-descript white envelope.
How will families know if they are receiving a card, or what they should do when they receive a card?
Each eligible student will be mailed a letter detailing P-EBT. This letter is a separate mailing from the card. The letter will be mailed in the student’s name to the address provided for the primary parent/guardian. The letter will explain what the P-EBT card is, where and how to use the card, how to create a PIN for the card, what items are eligible for purchase with the card, and who to contact with questions.
What can schools do to facilitate the issuance of P-EBT to families?
Schools can facilitate the process by:
Directing all parent/family/public inquiries to DHS Customer Service Line: 484-363-2137 or
It should be noted that benefits will not be issued any earlier than the middle of May 2021, therefore directing families to the DHS Customer Service Line prior to middle of May 2021 will be premature.
• Due to the number of variables, schools are otherwise limited with assisting parents beyond ensuring student is enrolled, address is correct, eligibility status of free or reduced, and whether the student was marked as in-person, virtual, or blended for respective months. Schools are advised to not try to calculate benefits for parents. Benefit levels will vary by student, even amongst siblings since benefit levels are determined by the number of days an eligible student is not receiving in-person instruction.
What resources are available for families to learn more about P-EBT?
• Families can be directed to DHS’s website for an informational video for families and for additional information.
The website is:
• Additional resources can be found at Food Research and Action Center website:
https://frac.org/pebtfaq and Just Harvest website: https://www.justharvest.org/faq-about-pandemic-ebt-in-pennsylvania/.
My school offers grab and go meals for students that attend virtually. Is a student eligible for P-EBT if they are receiving grab and go meals?
Yes. Grab and go meals do not preclude a student from receiving P-EBT.
How does a student absence count toward recording the attendance on the data template?
Any day a student was not in person, whether they were absent or learning virtually, is considered virtual (not in-person). If that student was not in-person 100% of the days of the respective month, they will be marked as V for virtual. If the student was in-person some days and virtual the rest of the days, that student will be marked with a B for Blended.
Our school district is 100% in-person, but some students have chosen to continue participating virtually. Are these students eligible to receive any benefits?
If the student is still enrolled in the district but attending virtually or attending a cyber/virtual school under the authority of the district (therefore still enrolled in the district), they can receive P-EBT benefits if they are eligible for free or reduced-price
How do I know if a student is eligible and for how much?
PDE suggests schools do not attempt to make this determination since there are so many possible scenarios. It is imperative the school provide the IU the data template with ALL currently enrolled students listed, completed data fields, and each student’s current Free, Reduced, or Paid eligibility status. DHS will determine if the student is eligible by looking at instruction and Free, Reduced, or Paid eligibility from this year and/or last year.
What about childcare P-EBT? Do I include Pre-K or K students?
If students in Pre-K or K would normally be considered enrolled in your NSLP school, then include them. More information about P-EBT for childcare will be forthcoming for the general public but should have little to no impact on schools.