May 4, 2021
The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program, created in March 2020, provides an EBT card with the value of free school breakfast, lunch, and a snack to make up for the free or reduced-price meals that children have missed due to schools that have closed or reduced their hours. For the millions of struggling families who have received P-EBT benefits — the program has offered a lifeline during unprecedented food insecurity and economic hardship.
Over the past year, Congress has extended and made improvements to the program, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and state agencies are working on state-specific plans to issue benefits for this school year. Currently, 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have approved plans to distribute benefits to school-age children, and 17 states have approved plans to distribute benefits to children under 6 years old and living in households participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Many states are in the process of finalizing their plan with USDA, and FRAC is working with the Department and states to ensure this much–needed benefit can reach all eligible families as soon as possible.
School-age children who have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to school closures or reduced in-person attendance are eligible for P-EBT in school year 2020-2021. In addition, children under 6 who live in SNAP households are also eligible for the program this school year.
Once a state has an approved P-EBT plan, advocates can take the following steps to ensure all eligible children receive P-EBT benefits.
- Encourage families to complete their school district’s school meal application. If the school district participates in community eligibility, there is no application to complete.
- Urge families to confirm that their address is current with the school. In most states, EBT cards will be sent to the address on file with the school district.
- Educate families about SNAP. In order for children under 6 to receive P-EBT benefits, they must be in a household that participates in SNAP; however, for school-age children, receiving SNAP benefits is not required if the child is certified for free or reduced-price school meals. An added benefit is the possibility to access SNAP and P-EBT benefits.
Reminder: P-EBT has no impact on public charge determination, and using P-EBT benefits does not impact a parent/guardian or a child’s immigration status. If you work with immigrant communities, emphasize this point in P-EBT outreach materials. Be sure to check out FRAC’s customizable resources (in five languages).
Looking Ahead to Summer 2021
Through the American Rescue Plan, Congress extends P-EBT benefits through the end of the public health crisis. USDA released guidance on April 26 on how states can implement P-EBT this summer.
- P-EBT benefits will be provided to all eligible children regardless of the learning model they followed during the school year. This is the first time students will be able to receive P-EBT benefits for the days schools are closed for summer break.
- USDA is allowing states to issue benefits for all weekdays during the covered summer period, up to 90 days.
For details on P-EBT, including student eligibility, during summer 2021, refer to this FAQ.
Visit FRAC’s P-EBT webpage for more tools. In addition to the FAQ and customizable resources already mentioned, there’s a P-EBT state program map. and communications and outreach tools (including customizable outreach materials in five languages), visit our P-EBT webpage,
FRAC looks forward to working with states and partners to implement this extension to ensure children have access to healthy meals and snacks year-round because hungry children can’t wait.