How to Apply For P-EBT Program? Check if Your Family is Eligible for Debit Card to Access Benefits During Pandemic

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) is a federal aid program issued by the U.S. government in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The initiative provides assistance to families with children who are no longer able to access free or reduced-price meals due to school closures following the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The benefits are issued in the form of a debit card which is distributed to households approved for the program.

All children who would receive free or reduced price meals under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act if not for school closures are eligible for the P-EBT program, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture states (USDA) on its website.

"State agencies may submit plans [for the P-EBT program] in any case in which a school is closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation during which the school would otherwise be in session," the FNS explains.

P-EBT benefits are only available in states that have been approved by USDA to operate the program. As of Monday, around 31 states have been approved to offer the program.

The exact amount of benefits received will vary by case but they "shall be equivalent to the daily reimbursement for free breakfast and lunch in the state, as specified by USDA, multiplied by the average number of days school was cancelled in the month for each eligible child in the household," the FNS explains.

P-EBT benefits may be provided on a monthly basis through "the end of the state's calculated average date for the end of the regularly scheduled school year," the FNS notes.

School lunch, cafeteria, Chicago, Illinois, March 2006
Students at Nettelhorst Elementary School pictured at the school's cafeteria during lunch on March 20, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. Getty Images

Households who already receive aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal program providing assistance to those with low or no income, can access the P-EBT benefits without having to apply for it. States are able to use existing case information to provide P-EBT benefits to SNAP households.

However, "for non-SNAP households, an application is required so that a P-EBT case may be set up in the state's eligibility system and benefits can be issued," the FNS advises.

"A non-SNAP household will need to provide household information in order to participate. A state may propose alternate procedures if the necessary data for non-SNAP households is readily available," the FNS notes.

Application deadlines and dates for when a household will begin receiving P-EBT benefits will vary by state. Check the relevant state government website for full details.

U.S. states approved to offer the P-EBT program

(as of May 18)

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

The novel coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, has infected more than 4.8 million people across the globe, including over 1.5 million in the U.S. Over 319,100 have died while more than 1.8 million have reportedly recovered from infection, as of Tuesday, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates U.S. states with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases.

A chart showing the ten states across the U.S. with the most coronavirus cases.
A chart showing the 10 states across the U.S. with the most COVID-19 cases. STATISTA

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of the COVID-19 virus across the U.S.

Spread of COVID-19 across the U.S.
Spread of COVID-19 across the U.S. STATISTA