May 29, 2020

P-EBT in Florida: Food Assistance for Families While Schools are Closed

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

UPDATE (MARCH 4, 2021): Florida’s P-EBT plan has been approved for school children for 2020-21.

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) provides food assistance to Floridians with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) but whose schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who is Eligible for P-EBT in Florida?

Floridians with children who would be receiving free or reduced-price school meals if their school had not been closed due to COVID-19 are eligible for P-EBT. This includes:

  • Families participating in SNAP (food assistance), TANF (cash assistance), or Medicaid who have a child enrolled in a school participating in NSLP;
  • Families with a child approved by their school district to receive free or reduced-price meals.

Note: Children in families who receive SNAP, TANF, or Medicaid but do not attend a school participating in NSLP are not eligible for P-EBT.

How Much Does P-EBT Provide in Benefits?

Families with eligible children who were receiving free or reduced-price meals prior to school closures on March 16, 2020, will receive a one-time benefit of $5.70 per day for 55 days per child. This comes to about $313.50 per child. Families with children who became eligible for free or reduced-price meals after March 16, 2020, will receive a pro-rated amount based on the month when they became eligible.

How Will Families Get Their P-EBT?

Families are not required to apply for P-EBT. Existing SNAP participants with children receiving free or reduced-price school meals will get P-EBT benefits automatically added to their family’s SNAP EBT card. Families participating in Medicaid or TANF who have children receiving free or reduced-price school meals will automatically mailed a P-EBT card to the address on file with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Families who do not participate in SNAP, TANF, or Medicaid will automatically be mailed a P-EBT card to the address on file with the child’s school district. Families are urged to double check the address on file through their online  DCF MyACCESS or school account to ensure that P-EBT has their correct address.

DCF plans to mail P-EBT cards and add P-EBT to existing SNAP accounts by June 30, 2020.

How Does P-EBT Work?

P-EBT benefits are issued on EBT cards to the parent or guardian of eligible children. EBT cards are used like debit or credit cards at checkout. Most grocery stores and many farmers markets accept P-EBT. These benefits can be used to buy food, with certain exceptions such as alcohol, hot foods, and foods prepared for immediate consumption, like toasted sandwiches at the deli. P-EBT can even be used to buy seeds or plants to grow food.

P-EBT benefits expire 365 days after issuance. If benefits are added to a family’s current SNAP allotment, their P-EBT benefits will automatically be used before their regular SNAP.

Does P-EBT Replace Free School Meals From Florida’s Summer BreakSpot Program?

No. P-EBT does not replace grab-and-go meals from the Summer BreakSpot Program. Families may use both as resources to put food on the table.

Will Using P-EBT Impact Immigration Status?

Immigration status is not considered in determining P-EBT eligibility. Nor will using P-EBT be considered in a public charge evaluation or affect a parent’s or child’s immigration status.

For more information about P-EBT, click here.

Note: The Florida Department of Children and Families has requested that individuals allow the state to fully issue all P-EBT benefits before inquiring about their benefit status. If someone has not received their benefit by June 30, 2020, they can contact DCF at 1-833-311-0321.

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