The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has implemented its Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) plan which was approved by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the 2020-2021 school year. As a part of this approved plan's implementation, many eligible Illinois students will be receiving a white Illinois P-EBT card in the mail with their name printed on the card.
IDHS has been working closely with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to ensure names of eligible students have been issued P-EBT cards in a timely manner. IDHS would like to address the issuance of these cards, as Illinois families might have questions if they have received a card and had no expectation of its arrival. If your child has received their card, IDHS would like to assure Illinois families that these cards were issued intentionally and generated based on certain eligibility criteria.
Here are some commonly asked questions about P-EBT food benefits for Illinois residents:
What is P-EBT?
The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) provides benefits to children who receive free or reduced-price school meals under the National School Lunch Program. P-EBT is a temporary food benefit program operating during the COVID-19 pandemic. P-EBT only provides benefits for days that students are remote learning, but without being offered a meal at school, or home for an approved COVID-related absence. P-EBT provides $6.82 for the 2020/2021 school year.
Please note that if you are unsure about the free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch program and have questions regarding your school's participation please visit the ISBE website at www.isbe.net/pebt
Who is eligible for P-EBT benefits?
Your child and your school must meet certain criteria to be eligible for P-EBT:
- Must be enrolled in free or reduced-price school meals at a school operating the National School Lunch Program; OR,
- Must be enrolled in a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which offers breakfast and lunch free to all students; AND,
- Must be without access to an in-school provided meal.
- Must operate the National School Lunch Program; AND,
- Must have been closed or operating remote learning for at least 5 consecutive days at some point during the 2020-2021 School Year.
How do I get P-EBT benefits? Do I need to apply?
If your child is already enrolled to receive free or reduced-price school meals AND your address is up to date:
- Each month, your child will automatically get P-EBT for each eligible P-EBT day. Each child will receive their own card.
- Cards will be mailed beginning in March 2021. Cards will continue to be mailed through the end of the school year as students records are received.
- Cards will arrive in an unmarked envelope so please be on the lookout. Keep that card, as any future P-EBT benefits will be loaded to that card for each student.
When will P-EBT benefits be issued?
- Benefits will be issued for August 2020 through June 2021 for the days that schools have been closed during the 2020-2021 school year.
- In March 2021, families will receive a distribution for the months of August 2020 through December 2020. Some families received August and September benefits in September, but a determination will be made if additional benefits may be provided and all eligible days will be received by eligible students.
- In April 2021, families will receive a distribution for January 2021 through February 2021.
- Beginning in May 2021, families will receive a benefit each month until the end of the school year.
- *If student information was not received by DHS according to the above schedule, the student will still receive benefits for any eligible prior month and those benefits will be available in the month the student is processed. Example, Student information is not received until May 1st, That student would have any eligible benefits for August 2020 through March 2021 available to them in the month of May.
Date Each Month
I am worried about receiving P-EBT because of my immigration status. Will getting this benefit count in a public charge test?
No. It is important to know that P-EBT will not count in a public charge test. All students are eligible regardless of immigration status. Read Protecting Immigrant Families: Public Charge - Know Your Rights (pdf) for information about what public benefits impact the public charge test.
In the 2019-2020 school year I had to apply for P-EBT benefits. Do I need to fill out another application?
No. You do not need to apply for P-EBT for SY20-21 benefits, but you must make sure your child is enrolled in free or reduced-price meals, if eligible, and that your address is up to date with your school. Your child is eligible for P-EBT for days where they did not have access to in-school meals.
In the 2019-2020 school year I received P-EBT benefits. Will the benefits for the 2020-2021 school year be loaded onto the same P-EBT card?
No. You will receive a new P-EBT card with the student's name on the card. Each month, benefits will automatically be loaded onto that card for as long as P-EBT operates.
In the 2019-2020 school year I received P-EBT benefits, but I threw away or lost my P-EBT card. Can I still get benefits?
Yes. You will receive a new P-EBT card with the student's name on the card. Each month, benefits will automatically be loaded onto that card for as long as P-EBT operates.
If I'm currently receiving SNAP and have a Link Card, can P-EBT benefits be loaded on the card?
No. You will receive a new EBT card with the student's name on the card specifically for P-EBT. Each month, benefits will automatically be loaded onto that card for as long as P-EBT operates.
My child is attending school in the classroom every day and consuming reimbursable meals at school. Are they eligible for P-EBT?
No. P-EBT benefits are supposed to replace the meals that students receive in person at the school. A student who is in the classroom full-time will receive meals at the school instead of receiving P-EBT benefits.
My child is attending school in a hybrid model where they are in the classroom some days and learning remote some days. Are they eligible for P-EBT?
Yes. Your child will receive a benefit amount based on the number of days that they are without access to a meal at school if they attend a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program.
How do I know if my school is eligible (participates in the National School Lunch Program)?
A listing of NSLP schools can be found on the ISBE website.
Additionally, on the IDHS P-EBT General Inquiry Request form, only P-EBT eligible schools are listed. If your school is not listed here, that school does not qualify for P-EBT.
I think my child is eligible for free or reduced-price meals, but we haven't enrolled. Can I still get P-EBT?
You can still get P-EBT, but you must apply for free or reduced-price meals with your child's school. You may be eligible for benefits retroactive to the beginning of this school year, but you should apply as soon as possible.
How do I know if my child is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch?
Read the ISBE income eligibility guidelines for free or reduced-price school meals (pdf).
My child received free or reduced-price school meals, but I did not receive a P-EBT card in the mail. Who do I contact?
Make sure your school is eligible for P-EBT, check the listing on ISBE (www.isbe.net/pebt)
Benefit cards will not be mailed until March 2021. Additional Cards will be mailed each month for any new student information that is received. New Student information is only processed the first weekend of each month. For any questions, please call the toll-free P-EBT Helpline number at 1-833-621-0737 from 8:30 am to 5:00 PM, Monday thru Friday, excluding state holidays.
I received P-EBT benefits for my child, but I do not need nor want them. What do I do?
If you do not want to use the P-EBT benefits your child is eligible for, you have 2 options:
- Simply do not use the benefits. Benefits will remain available to you for 1 year. If you do not use the benefits, we will remove the benefits from the card after 1 year. However, if your circumstances change over the next year, and you need the benefits, you can use them.
- You can request that the benefits be removed from your account right away. Once we verify your identity, you can authorize this verbally on the phone (1-833-621-0737, available 03/01/2021 ) or use the DHS P-EBT General Inquiry Request and select the subject of "Voluntary Return of P-EBT benefits." However, once benefits are removed, they will not be reissued if your circumstances change.
My child didn't get P-EBT in the 2019-2020 school year. Can I apply now and still get P-EBT benefits for the 2019-2020 school year?
No. You cannot get P-EBT benefits for the 2019-2020 school year. However, you may be eligible to receive benefits retroactively to the start of this school year (August 2020) if your child was attending an eligible school and without access to an in-school meal.
If my child receives P-EBT, can I still get food pantry benefits?
Yes. Your participation in government programs does not affect your ability to get food from the food pantry.
What if I don't have a safe mailing address for the card or I'm homeless?
We can coordinate with your school to mail the card to the school address and you can pick up the card there. You will be asked to sign a form when you pick up your card.
How do I Use and Manage my P-EBT Card?
To learn how to check you P-EBT balance, report a lost or stolen card, or to request a replacement card, visit Manage My Illinois Link Card.
How do I change my address?
If you already received your P-EBT Link Card, and need to update your address; you may do so using the LINK hotline at 1-800-678-5465. If needed, you can order a new card at that time as well.
If you have not received your P-EBT Link Card, but have been told you are eligible, you can request an address change online at P-EBT Change of Address Form.
If you have an existing case for SNAP, Cash or Medical benefits, use Manage My Case (MMC) to report your change of address or call the LINK hotline at 1-800-678-5465.
Does the P-EBT cards have expiration dates?
The P-EBT cards never expire.
Benefits will be available on the card for 274 days of the benefit being available AND 274 days of no activity. Both conditions must be met before we remove the unused benefits.
Do we need to use all the benefit before the new benefit is issued?
No. You do not need to use all the benefits in order for your next benefit to be issued.