The ABCs of Pandemic EBT

Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) is a federal program to help families buy food for children who are not receiving free or reduced-price school meals because schools are closed due to the pandemic. This assistance comes through the New Jersey Department of Human Services.

The P-EBT card works like a debit card to purchase food items anywhere EBT benefits (also known as food stamps) are accepted.

There is no need to apply.  Eligible New Jersey students and families will receive money on a new or existing EBT card to help fill the school meals gap. If your household is already receiving SNAP (aka food stamps), you should receive the extra benefit automatically on your EBT card. Families not enrolled in SNAP will receive a new card.

There were two rounds of P-EBT. The first round covered students from March 2020 when schools first closed due to the pandemic, through June 2020. Benefits were also being issued for September. Most eligible families already received this benefit as of the beginning of November 2020. 

A new federal law passed in October extended P-EBT to eligible children through the 2020-21 school year.  In this second round of P-EBT, eligible families should receive about $99 per month, per child.

This will be available only to students in schools that are closed for in-classroom instruction or have reduced attendance or hours for at least five days in a row during the school year.

The state is still waiting for federal approval to begin providing this second round of assistance and has not issued this benefit beyond September 2020.

For the most current information, visit DHS’s P-EBT webpage.

Your school district should have provided your children’s names, dates of birth and mailing addresses to the New Jersey Department of Human Services (NJDHS)

While many families got these benefits over the summer and into the fall, some did not.  

If, for any reason, the NJ Department of Human Services did not have your child’s name in its system by September 30,  then you did not receive P-EBT benefits when schools were closed from March through June. 

It is unclear at this point whether New Jersey will go back and provide those benefits in the second round of P-EBT, which has not yet been distributed.

If think your card was sent to the wrong address, first confirm the address with your school and then contact your local county board of social services to get a replacement card.

Visit the NJ DHS’s P-EBT web page for more information.

Your school district must participate in the National School Lunch Program and your child must be approved to receive free or reduced-price school meals. Even if your district is providing free meals to all students because of the pandemic, you should still complete the application. Contact your school for a school meals application.

Remember, benefits will only be sent to students in schools that are not operating any in-person classes. 

You may also be eligible for SNAP (food stamps). If you are approved for SNAP, you will automatically receive P-EBT once the state starts making those payments, as long as your child is enrolled in your the National School Lunch Program. Being enrolled in SNAP alone does NOT make your child qualified. 

Visit njhelps.org to see if you qualify for SNAP and other programs.

Hunger Free New Jersey does not run the P-EBT program so we can only provided limited, general information.

For the most comprehensive and current information about P-EBT, please visit the

New Jersey Department of Human Services P-EBT webpage. 

P-EBT Card Picture
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