There is a delay processing applications due to the high volume of people who need help during the pandemic.

Information about P-EBT

Applications are now closed.

The application window for Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) has now closed.

As of July 31, all P-EBT eligibility decisions have been made. The deadline to appeal an eligibility decision was August 17.

General information

When is the deadline to apply for P-EBT benefits?

As of July 31, all P-EBT eligibility decisions have been made. The deadline to appeal an eligibility decision was August 17. The California Department of Social Services is processing all the appeals they received. They will make final appeal decisions no later than one month from the date they received the appeal.

What are ‘P-EBT’ or Pandemic EBT benefits?

While schools were closed due to coronavirus (COVID-19), some students got extra food benefits. These food benefits are called Pandemic EBT or P-EBT benefits. P-EBT benefits help families in California buy food when school is closed.

P-EBT was a one-time disaster response program. The program ran between March and June 2020. P-EBT was for students who lost access to free or reduced price school meals during the pandemic. Students were eligible for P-EBT if they would have received free or reduced-price school meals through the federal School Breakfast or National School Lunch Programs.

Federal funding for this program was not renewed for the 2020-21 school year.

The California Department of Social Services and the California Department of Education finished P-EBT operations at the end of August 2020.

Who is eligible for P-EBT benefits?

Children are eligible for P-EBT benefits if:

  • Their school is closed due to coronavirus (COVID 19); and
  • They are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals

How do I get P-EBT benefits?

Most families with children who receive CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care benefits do not need to apply online. They will get their P-EBT card in the mail during the month of May. P-EBT cards will begin arriving around May 11, 2020 through May 22, 2020.

Families with children who applied for CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care benefits after their school closed will get their P-EBT card in the mail before July 15, 2020.

Families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and who do NOT get CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care benefits must apply online before July 15, 2020.

If your children were not enrolled in school meals before schools closed, they may not be able to be verified for P-EBT eligibility. Contact your school district to see if they are still accepting applications for free/reduced meals at this time.

If I get P-EBT benefits, will it make me a public charge?

Since schools closed because of COVID-19, children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals can get Pandemic EBT (P-EBT). P-EBT is similar to disaster emergency benefits that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has confirmed would not be considered for public charge purposes.

In addition, free and reduced-price school meals are not considered public benefits for public charge purposes. Additionally, benefits received by children do not count against their parents for public charge purposes. Children are the recipients of P-EBT, so it won’t be considered as a benefit received by their parents.

Public charge does not apply to all immigrants. If you have questions about your immigration status and this food benefit, more information is available here, including a list of free and low-cost immigration services providers.

Is my family still eligible for other food benefits like CalFresh and school meal programs at COVID-19 emergency locations if we receive P-EBT?

Yes. P-EBT benefits are additional benefits that do not replace CalFresh or any child nutrition program meals being offered. Children may continue to receive "grab n go" meals or emergency food at COVID-19 emergency feeding sites offered by schools and community locations, even if they are receiving P-EBT benefits.

What if I have shared custody of my children?

Children who are automatically eligible for P-EBT will receive their P-EBT card at the mailing address on file. Children who are eligible for P-EBT, but are not receiving CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster care benefits must apply. The P-EBT application should be completed by the parent who is responsible for purchasing and preparing a majority of a child’s meals (more than 50%). P-EBT benefits cannot be split on two cards, but parents can share a single P-EBT card.

Using P-EBT benefits

How much in P-EBT benefits will I get?

You can get up to $365 for each child who is eligible for P-EBT benefits. The total amount you will get depends on how many eligible children are living in your home.

Most families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals will get $365 for each child. If you do not get your P-EBT card in the mail and you apply before July 15th, 2020, you will get the full amount of benefits.

Families with children who applied and got CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care benefits after their school closed, may get less than $365 for each child. This depends on when you applied for CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster Care.

How long do I have to spend my P-EBT benefits?

You can use your P-EBT benefits for one year. It starts on the date you get your P-EBT card.

What can I buy with P-EBT benefits?

Your P-EBT benefits can buy food at most grocery stores and farmer's markets, and to purchase groceries online at Amazon and Walmart. Unfortunately your P-EBT card may not be used for restaurant meals or fast food.

Use your P-EBT card like a debit card:

  • Select "EBT"
  • Swipe the card
  • Enter your private PIN number

What to expect

What will happen after I submit my P-EBT application?

You will get an email saying that we received your application. Then, we will start reviewing your application. The information you provided must match information provided by the Department of Education. This takes some time.

You will hear back with your final eligibility by July 31st. We will email you and let you know when your P-EBT card is on its way.

What should I do when I get my P-EBT card in the mail?

Follow the instructions that came with your P-EBT card and create your private PIN number. Then your card can be used to buy food in most grocery stores and farmer's markets.

To activate your card, call the EBT Customer Service Center at (877) 328-9677. Option 4 will allow you to set a PIN for your new card. You'll need the following information to activate your card: the 16-digit card number found on the front of your card, your zip code for your mailing address, and the 6-digit date of birth for the child named on the card.

How many P-EBT cards will I get?

Some families will receive one P-EBT card loaded with benefits for all students in the house. It will have the oldest student's name on it.

Some families will receive many cards - one card for each eligible student. The cards will have $365 per student on it.

Check the balance on your cards to make sure you have received benefits for all your eligible students.

Getting your P-EBT card

If I already got a P-EBT card in the mail do I need to apply online?

No. If you already got a P-EBT card in the mail do not apply online. Follow the instructions that came with your P-EBT card and create your private PIN number.

To activate your card, call the EBT Customer Service Center at (877) 328-9677. Option 4 will allow you to set a PIN for your new card. You'll need the following information to activate your card: the 16-digit card number found on the front of your card, your zip code for your mailing address, and the 6-digit date of birth for the child named on the card.

What if I received multiple P-EBT cards?

Some families will receive one P-EBT card in the oldest child's name with benefits for several students. Some families will receive multiple cards, one for each eligible student. The cards will have $365 per student. Check the balance on your card to determine if you received benefits for all eligible students.

What if I received a P-EBT card but it did not have benefits for all the children in my family?

If you got a P-EBT card, but it did not include benefits for all your eligible children, you should fill out an application for all the students in your household.

What if I'm supposed to get a P-EBT card sent without applying, but had a recent change in address?

If you have not received a P-EBT card by May 25 AND you currently receive CalFresh, CalWORKs, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care benefits we may not have your most recent address. Do NOT apply online to report a change of address. Instead, you can call the EBT Customer Service Center (877-328-9677) to request a change of address beginning the week of May 25. After confirming eligibility, a new card can be issued to your new address.

Application status

When will I hear back about the status of my application?

As of July 31, 2020, the California Department of Social Services has made all P-EBT eligibility decisions.

Did you provide an email address on your P-EBT application? You should have received an email with your final eligibility.

How will I know if my application has been approved?

Did you provide an email address on your P-EBT application? You should have received an email with your final eligibility.

How will I know if my application has been denied?

Did you provide an email address on your P-EBT application? You should have received an email with your final eligibility.

If your family was not eligible for P-EBT, but you believe you should have been, you can complete an appeal. Submit an appeal online or call the P-EBT helpline at 833-780-0353. The deadline to submit an appeal is August 17, 2020. The California Department of Social Services will review your appeal. This may take up to one month. They are not allowed to talk about why you are not eligible over the phone.

How can I check the status of my application?

Check your email. We will send you an email saying that we received your application. You will get another email when your P-EBT card is in the mail and on its way to you. After you get an email saying your card is on its way, you can call the EBT Customer Service Center at (877-328-9677) if you need help.

Help

What should I do if I haven't received my card yet?

If you got an email saying your card is on its way, but you haven't received it yet, it may have been sent to the wrong address. Follow these instructions to get a new card:

  1. Call the EBT Customer Service Center at (877-328-9677)
  2. Select your language
  3. Select "0" when they ask for a card number
  4. Select "report lost" or "unauthorized card use"
  5. They will connect you with someone
  6. Tell the representative that you are missing your P-EBT card

If the EBT Customer Service Center confirms that your card was sent to the wrong address, please call the P-EBT helpline at 833-780-0353 or leave a message here. They will update your address and send you a new P-EBT card.

What if I applied online and haven't received my P-EBT card?

The state is experiencing delays, so P-EBT cards may take longer to reach you. You will hear back from us with your final eligibility status by about July 31st.

What number should I call for help?

Your local social service office can help with the following:

  • You have a P-EBT card and need help setting up your PIN
  • You need to request a replacement card
  • Your P-EBT card did not arrive in the mail

Contact your local social service office for help. Find an office near you at https://calfresh.dss.ca.gov/food/officelocator/ or call 1-877-847-3663. If you live in Los Angeles, call 1-888-999-7671.

Local social service offices can only help families that are eligible for P-EBT. They cannot help with P-EBT eligibility issues or provide status updates for P-EBT.

What should I do if my application was denied?

The deadline to appeal an eligibility decision was August 17. The California Department of Social Services is processing all the appeals they received. They will make final appeal decisions no later than one month from the date they received the appeal.