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Pandemic EBT Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions about P-EBT.  For additional information, see the FAQs from California Food Policy Advocates. 

1. What are P-EBT or Pandemic EBT benefits?
While schools are closed, children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school get an extra food benefit of $365. This one-time benefit is called Pandemic EBT (P-EBT).

2. How do I get P-EBT benefits?
Most families with children who receive CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or CalWORKs do not need to apply. They will automatically get their P-EBT card in the mail between May 12 and 22, 2020.

Families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and who do NOT get CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or CalWORKs benefits must apply for P-EBT online at ca.p-ebt.org between May 22 and July 15, 2020. Eligible families should receive their P-EBT card within 12 days after applying. 

3. 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, simply follow the instructions that came with your P-EBT card and create your private PIN number. To set your PIN number, you will need to:

  • Call the state's EBT customer service at (877) 328-9677, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Select your preferred language,
  • Enter your 16-digit card number followed by the pound sign (#). 
  • You may be asked to provide your zip code and child's date of birth.
  • Select option 4 for PIN replacement (which is the same as creating a new PIN).
  • Start using your card.

4. What if I need to speak to a customer services agent about my P-EBT benefit or card?

  • Call the state's EBT customer service at (877) 328-9677, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  
  • Select your preferred language. (Ignore the message about COVID-19 information.)
  • When prompted to enter your 16-digit card number, do not enter anything.
  • When the prompt repeats, once again, do not enter anything.
  • The prompt will then ask if you need to report a lost or stolen card (press 1) or to report unauthorized card use (press 2). Press 1 to be transferred to a live customer service agent.

You can also get assistance using our secure online form. Be sure to include your case information so we can resolve your issue BEFORE we email or call you back. 

5. If we receive P-EBT, is my family still eligible to participate in school meal programs during the COVID-19 school closure?
Yes. P-EBT benefits are additional benefits that do NOT replace any child nutrition program meals. Children may continue to receive “grab and go” meals at emergency feeding sites. For more about free school meals visit sfusd.edu/schoolfood or call (415) 749-3604.

6. How much in P-EBT benefits will I get?
Most families will get a P-EBT card with a one-time benefit of $365 for each eligible child. This amount covers benefits for each month schools have been closed:  

  • March 2020: $68 per child
  • April 2020: $120 per child
  • May 2020: $120 per child
  • June 2020: $57 per child

Note: Your child may not get the full P-EBT amount if you applied for free or reduced-price school meals, Medi-Cal, CalFresh, or CalWORKs after schools closed. The amount your child may receive will depend on when your case was approved.

7. What can I buy with P-EBT benefits?
Your P-EBT benefits can buy food in most grocery stores and farmers’ markets. Use your P-EBT card like a debit card:

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

You can also use your P-EBT card to buy groceries online for delivery from Amazon or pick-up from Walmart. Unfortunately, your P-EBT card may not be used for restaurant meals or fast food.

8. 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. To set your PIN number, you will need to call the state's EBT customer service at (877) 328-9677, select your preferred language, enter your 16-digit card number, and then select option 4 for PIN replacement. Once you enter the requested information, your card will be ready to use to buy food in most grocery stores and farmers' markets. 

9. When is the deadline to apply for P-EBT benefits?
You must apply by July 15, 2020 at ca.p-ebt.org. P-EBT benefits are only available while schools are closed due to COVID-19. If you didn’t get a P-EBT card in the mail and do not apply by July 15, 2020, you cannot get P-EBT benefits.

As long as you apply online before July 15, 2020 and are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, you will get the full $365 benefit amount.

10. What if I applied online and haven’t received my P-EBT card?
Call California’s EBT customer service center at (877) 328-9677, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

11. How long do I have to spend my P-EBT benefits?
You can use your P-EBT benefits for one year starting on the date you receive your P-EBT card.

12. If I get P-EBT benefits, will it make me a public charge?
No. P-EBT is based on a family's eligibility for their child's free or reduced-price meal. Immigration officials do NOT consider free or reduced school meals, P-EBT, or other emergency benefits for public charge purposes.