Pandemic EBT

The federal government launched Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) as a new option in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Pandemic EBT provides food benefits to eligible families in order to replace meals that students would have received, if not for disruptions to in-person instruction or school facility closure.

Pandemic EBT benefits issued in May – August of 2020 were meant to replace meals from school year 2019–20. Pandemic EBT "2.0" will provide food benefits to replace meals missed during the 2020–21 school year.

Who is eligible for P-EBT 2.0?

Children who normally have access to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) and are registered/enrolled at a school in Washington state that:

  • Has been closed or has reduced attendance for 5 or more consecutive days as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency during the 2020-2021 school year, and
  • Determined the child is eligible for free or reduced-priced school meals

I already receive food assistance. Do I automatically qualify for P-EBT?

Most children active on food assistance are automatically certified for free school meals, but they don’t automatically qualify for P-EBT benefits. P-EBT eligibility will depend on the school the child attends and their learning model.

The P-EBT program provides food benefits to eligible students to replace the cost of meals that students would have received if not for the loss of in-person instruction or school closures during School Year 2020-21. Please review the eligibility questions below for P-EBT eligibility information.

How is this different than last school year? Why

The 2019-20 school year P-EBT program originally provided food benefits to eligible school-aged children for the months of March, April, May and June 2020. Households applied for these benefits and, if determined eligible, they received a standard benefit amount issued by lump sum on a (Quest) EBT card.

Washington State has received federal approval to issue P-EBT benefits for children in school for the 2020-21 school year from September 2020 through summer 2021. We automated the eligibility process to get more households the assistance they need during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This means households do not have to apply for the 2020-21 P-EBT program.

Why are the P-EBT benefits and letters addressed to the students and not the parents or guardians?

P-EBT eligibility letters are addressed to each eligible student. Students across the state have different living situations and may not always live with a parent or guardian. Letters and P-EBT cards are listed under the student’s name for this reason. We are using the student’s verified address of residence listed with the school to send these letters and P-EBT cards. This is in accordance with our state plan and Washington Administrative Code.

Do I need to claim P-EBT benefits on my taxes or pay them back?

No. P-EBT benefits are not taxable under the Federal Income Tax rules and students who receive P-EBT benefits don’t need to repay them.

If I get P-EBT benefits, will it affect my immigration status or make me a public charge?

No. Benefits are provided to the child and immigration is not required to apply for this program.


My child gets lunches at school. Can I still qualify for P-EBT?

Yes. P-EBT benefits are additional food benefits. Children may continue to receive grab-and-go meals at school or community sites or emergency food at COVID-19 emergency feeding sites offered at community locations, even if they are receiving P-EBT benefits.

My family gets $0 in food assistance. Do I automatically qualify for P-EBT?

Some families get a $0 food benefit amount and keep their case open for access to other resources. Families that receive $0 in food assistance are not automatically certified for free school meals and must apply for free or reduced-price meals using the instructions below.

My situation has changed and I now might be eligible for free or reduced-price meals. How do I apply?

To apply for free or reduced-price meals through Tacoma Public Schools, visit Be sure to submit ONLY ONE application per household. You will be notified by mail if the application is approved or denied.

My children are home schooled. Do they qualify for P-EBT?

No. P-EBT is available only to children enrolled in and receiving education services in a school and would normally receive free or reduced-price school meals through the NSLP or SBP if the school wasn’t closed or had reduced attendance. 

How do I find out if my child is eligible for P-EBT benefits?

Eligible children will receive a notice and a P-EBT card with their name on it. We anticipate the notice to be sent to eligible children beginning late March 2021. The P-EBT card will be mailed shortly after. Families should keep their cards as more benefits may be added later if their school continues to be closed or have reduced hours.

When will P-EBT cards arrive?

If your child became eligible for free or reduced-price meals in June, your card may arrive sometime later in June. All households will receive an eligibility letter prior to receiving their card in the mail.

Why will it take so long to receive the P-EBT card?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recommended states stagger issuances to avoid local grocery store supply and demand issues. While you are waiting for your card to arrive, we recommend seeing if you qualify for other benefits. 

How do I get P-EBT benefits for the 2020-21 school year?

Eligible families do not need to apply to get P-EBT benefits for this school year. Each eligible child will receive a P-EBT card mailed directly to eligible families without having to apply online.

What address will the new P-EBT card be mailed to?

P-EBT cards will be mailed to the address on file with the school. Contact your school’s office coordinator to ensure they have your current mailing address.

Families submitting school meal applications with a current address should also update the address with the school.  School meal systems and student information systems may not be the same. 

Will my benefits be back dated to the beginning of the school year?

Yes. If a child is determined eligible, we will issue P-EBT benefits back to the beginning of the 2020-21 school year or the month the school became eligible and through January 2021. Benefits for these months will be issued in March 2021 while benefits for February through summer will be issued every other month; however, families may not receive their card until May. The amounts may vary for each child based on their respective school learning models. 

What do I need to do when the new P-EBT card arrives in the mail?

Follow the instructions that come with your P-EBT card and create your secure Personal Identification Number or PIN.  Keep your card! If your school stays in a remote learning environment, has reduced attendance days or is closed due to COVID-19, we may add more benefits to your card. 

Should I keep my P-EBT card?

Yes. Additional benefits will be administered later in the year. Cards should be kept in a safe place.

Students should have received notices in late April 2021 about their one-time, retroactive payment for February and March 2021. Any additional rounds of benefits will also be added to these cards, so please don’t get rid of them when you have used the benefits from September 2020 — January 2021.
Future benefits may be different amounts as they are based on the attendance of the most students in each school. As schools return to in person learning, benefit amounts will decrease. The tentative P-EBT eligibility notices and benefit schedule is as follows. Households reporting address changes may receive cards outside of these timeframes.

What if I need a replacement P-EBT card because I lost or damaged mine?

P-EBT card replacements are processed by calling the EBT vendor, FIS, at 888-328-9271. Families may also visit or the ebtEdge app if a replacement card is needed. To request a replacement P-EBT card, you will need the following information: the child’s full name, date of birth, zip code and full address as provided by the school.

The mailing address must match what is in the system for a replacement card to be mailed. Please expect seven to 10 business days to receive your card.

My child didn’t receive a notice or P-EBT card. What should I do?

It is possible that children determine eligible have received the Notice of Action for Upload #1 and Upload #2 but have not received their P-EBT cards yet. DSHS reports the last batch of P-EBT cards from the first round of benefits (covering September through January) were mailed out April 27th and could take 7 to 10 days to arrive in the mail. We ask that families be patient as more than 500,000 Washington students are issued benefits.

If you have not received your card by May and suspect that it was sent to an old or wrong address, check with your child’s school by calling the office coordinator to ensure they have your current mailing address. If the P-EBT card has not been activated, it will be cancelled and a new one will be reissued to the updated address.

If your address is not the problem, you can call the P-EBT Contact Center at 833-518-0282.

I have my P-EBT card but need to update my address. What should I do?

If you have already activated your P-EBT card but still need to update your address, you may keep using your current card but make sure you contact your school’s office coordinator to update your address.

If you have not yet activated your P-EBT card, another card will be issued to your new address and the original card will be cancelled. 

Can I put these benefits on my existing EBT card?

No. Many students who receive free or reduced-price meals are not on food assistance programs and do not have a Quest EBT card. To get P-EBT benefits to the most children across the state, we have placed them on a new P-EBT card.

We do not need these benefits. Can I decline them?

We encourage households determined eligible for P-EBT to use the benefits for your family and to help boost the local economy. Benefits are not transferrable and cannot be gifted or donated. If you still wish to decline the benefits, you may destroy the card or return the card to the address on the back of the card. Benefits will be automatically removed after 274 days of non-use.  

How much will I get in P-EBT benefits?

Meals are budgeted at a daily rate of $6.82, which covers lunch, breakfast and a snack, multiplied by an average of 18 operating days per month for the 2020-21 school year.

The P-EBT benefit amount is based on each student’s learning situation and can vary from student to student, even within a family.

Schools will report their learning model for the majority of students for the majority of each month. Each school is unique and may have modified their learning model several times since September 2020. Because of this, each child may receive a different benefit amount. The table below provides the different benefit levels based on learning model.

Learning Model


Dollar Amount per Month

Full remote learning

$6.82 x 18 x 100%


One day in-person

$6.82 x 18 x 80%


Two days in-person

$6.82 x 18 x 60%


Three days in-person

$6.82 x 18 x 40%


Four days in-person

$6.82 x 18 x 20%


Why is the amount not based on my child’s actual attendance?

To help the most children, we applied a statewide standard amount awarded to the children. We are unable to monitor individual student attendance. We are using the main learning model at the child’s school as reported by the school.

Can P-EBT benefits amounts be changed or corrected?

The amount of P-EBT will be based on what the school reported as the main learning model for the entire school for each month. If you believe there has been an error on your child’s P-EBT amount, you can call the P-EBT Contact Center at 833-518-0282 to request they review your eligibility.

Will there be more P-EBT benefits?

Benefits for February through summer may be issued every other month if your school continues to have limited in-person learning. Future school year Pandemic EBT benefits are unknown. Make sure to keep your card for potential future benefits. Please visit for additional details.

Who do I call for P-EBT questions?

All P-EBT eligibility questions may be directed to the P-EBT Contact Center at 833-518-0282 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday (except observed holidays).

Who do I call to set up my PIN?

Once you get your card, families may call 888-328-9271 to set up your PIN.

Do I have to set up my PIN on my P-EBT card by a specific date?

No. However, we do encourage all families to set up their PIN and activate their P-EBT benefits as soon as they receive the card, but there is no set deadline to set up a PIN or activate the P-EBT card.

Where can I use my P-EBT benefits and what can I buy with them?

Use your P-EBT card like a debit card. Your P-EBT benefits can buy food at most grocery stores and farmers markets. You can use your P-EBT benefits at any store that accepts EBT, including online from Amazon and Walmart. Most retailers have signs saying they accept EBT.

P-EBT benefits can be used to buy any food that can be bought with SNAP EBT. EBT eligible foods are most foods, except prepared and foods sold hot. You can learn more about EBT eligible foods by visiting

Can P-EBT be used for SNAP Market Match?

Yes. Families can use their P-EBT to get SNAP Market Match. This program allows families to get double the amount of food at participating farmer’s markets! Learn more by visiting the Washington State Department of Health website and searching for SNAP incentives.

Do I have to use all my P-EBT benefits when I get them?

No. The benefits will carry over from month to month. Your P-EBT benefits will remain on your card for a maximum of 274 days from your last activity starting from the issuance date.

Don’t throw your P-EBT card away. As long as the COVID-19 public health emergency is in place, we may issue additional P-EBT benefits on this card.

How do I check my balance?

You can call the EBT vendor, FIS, at 888-328-9271 (the number on the back of the P-EBT card) to check the balance, or go to or download the ebtEdge application on your cell phone.

Someone used my benefits. Can I get them replaced?

No. We cannot replace the value of any benefit that has been redeemed. It is very important you choose a secure PIN that is easy to remember but not commonly used.

We encourage you to contact the EBT vendor, FIS, at 888-328-9271 to cancel your card and request a new one. If you suspect fraud, call the Washington State Welfare Fraud Hotline at 800-562-6906.

I don’t have a confirmed address with the school. How do I get my P-EBT card?

If your family is facing homelessness (McKinney-Vento) and your child is eligible for P-EBT, your P-EBT card will be available for pickup through the McKinney-Vento office in the Central Administrative Building at 601 South 8th Street, Tacoma, WA 98405.

If your address is confidential, your P-EBT card will be available for pickup at the Nutrition Services office at 3321 S Union Ave, Tacoma, WA 98409.

P-EBT benefits are not covering all my costs. I need more assistance. Who do I contact?

If you need more food assistance or cash assistance, you can call the Department of Social and Health Services to apply for benefits at 877-501-2233 or visit

You may also call Washington Information Network, or WIN211, at 877-211-9274 to learn more about other resources available in your community.

Are there any other food benefits available?

  • The OSPI Organizations Providing Meals Map can help families find locations serving meals to children. Participating in these meal services does not prevent eligible children from getting P-EBT benefits.
  • Contact your local school district to learn about free meal site locations in your area. These meal programs are available to all children 18 and under, regardless of what school they attend.
  •  You can go to to see if you qualify to get Basic Food benefits.   
  • If you have any younger children, you may also qualify for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which provides food assistance to children up to the age of 5 and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers:

Learn more at or call the P-EBT Contact Center at 1-833-518-0282 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday (except observed holidays) if you have additional questions.

If you need this information in another language, please call 1-833-518-0282.

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Additional Questions? 

(253) 571-3370

Fax 253-571-3377