About Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) Benefits
If you have school-age children at home, you may be eligible for a new food assistance program now. Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) provides extra food benefits for families during COVID-19.
Increase Your Family’s Food Budget
P-EBT is a benefit that can help buy food for school-age children between the ages of 3-17 and youth aged 18-22 (in high school). P-EBT is available for children and youth who receive free and reduced-price meals and lack access to an in-school lunch.
Get answers to your questions about P-EBT food benefits for Illinois residents below. (Leer en español.)
Frequently Asked Questions
The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) provides benefits to certain children who receive free or reduced-price school lunches under the National School Lunch Act. P-EBT is a temporary food benefit program operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. P-EBT only provides benefits for days that students lack access to an in-school lunch. P-EBT provides $6.82 per each school day that children are engaged in remote learning.
Your child and your school must meet certain criteria to be eligible for P-EBT:
- Must be enrolled in free or reduced-price school meals at a school operating the National School Lunch Program; OR,
- Must be enrolled in a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision-2 school, which offers breakfast and lunch free to all students; AND,
- Must have not had access to an in-school lunch at least some days of the month.
- Must operate the National School Lunch Program; AND,
- Must have been closed or operating at reduced capacity at least 5 consecutive days at some point during the 2020-2021 School Year.
If your child is already enrolled in free or reduced-price school meals AND your address is up-to-date:
- Your family will get P-EBT automatically. Each child will receive their own card.
- Cards will be mailed to you in March.
- Cards will arrive in an unmarked envelope so please be on the lookout.
- Families should hold onto their P-EBT card(s) because future benefits will be loaded onto the same card.
If you are new to a school district, if your child did not receive free or reduced-price meals last school year OR if you recently moved:
- You must fill out an application for free or reduced-price school meals by contacting your school.
Benefits will be issued for August 2020 through June 2021 for the days that schools have been closed during the 2020-2021 school year.
- In March, families will receive a distribution for the months of August 2020 through December 2020.
- In April, families will receive a distribution for January 2021 through February.
- Beginning in May, families will receive a monthly benefit for the remainder of the school year.
Benefits will be issued between the 11th and 22nd of each month going by the first letter of the student’s last name. Students’ benefits will be issued on the same day in subsequent months so your family can plan your food budget.
No. It is important to know that P-EBT will not count in a public charge test. All students are eligible regardless of immigration status. Visit Protecting Immigrant Families for information about what public benefits impact the public charge test.
Yes, children and teens can still receive free meals from school and community sites AND get P-EBT, too – they are separate programs.
- To find free meal sites near you, text the word “food” or “comida” to “877-877”
- You can also visit your school district website to find school meal locations in your area.
You do not need to apply for P-EBT, but you must make sure your child is enrolled in free or reduced-price meals OR attends a CEP school where all meals are provided for free AND that your address is up-to-date with your school.
No, you will receive a new P-EBT card with the student’s name on the card. Each month, benefits will automatically be loaded onto that card for as long as P-EBT operates.
Yes, you will receive a new P-EBT card with the student’s name on the card. Each month, benefits will automatically be loaded onto that card for as long as P-EBT operates.
No, you will receive a new EBT card with the student’s name on the card specifically for P-EBT. Each month, benefits will automatically be loaded onto that card for as long as P-EBT operates.
No, P-EBT benefits are supposed to replace the meals that students receive in person at the school. A student who is in the classroom full-time will receive meals at the school instead of receiving a P-EBT benefit.
Yes, your child’s attendance will be counted by the school and they will receive a benefit amount based on the number of days that they lack access to an in-school lunch.
You can still get P-EBT but you must apply for free or reduced-price meals with your child’s school. You may be eligible for benefits retroactive to August but you should apply as soon as possible.
Click here to view the income eligibility guidelines for free or reduced-price school meals.
No, you cannot get P-EBT benefits for the 2019-2020 school year. However, you may be eligible to receive benefits retroactively to the start of this school year (August 2020) if your child was engaged in remote learning.
Yes, your participation in government programs does not affect your ability to get food from a food pantry.