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Public Benefits: What should I know about Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) food assistance benefits during COVID-19?



I’ve heard that families with children who qualify for free or reduced priced meals at school may receive food assistance benefits.  Is this correct?

Yes.  Ohio was approved for the new Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program.  This is a program providing a one-time payment to families with children who normally receive free and reduced school meals.  P-EBT benefits will only be available to children who were enrolled in free and reduced-price meals as of April 29, 2020.   P-EBT eligible families will be notified through a flyer sent from your school district.

My child never received free or reduced priced meals.  Will we still receive the new P-EBT benefits?

Maybe.  Nearly 1,000 schools in Ohio are considered "community eligibility" schools and all children have access to free school meals, due to the high percentage of students enrolled in SNAP.  This includes many metropolitan school districts, including Akron, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati public schools. EVERY child in the school district is eligible for P-EBT, even if your family’s income would be too high if applying for SNAP or reduced meals directly.  You’ll receive a card, but do not need to activate it.

Do I need to apply for these P-EBT and how do I receive them? 

You do not have to apply for the P-EBT benefits.  These benefits will be added to the Ohio Direction (EBT) cards of families who currently receive SNAP (food stamp) benefits.  Families who do not receive SNAP benefits will be mailed an EBT card for each child with the one-time benefit added.  It will be white with “OHIO P-EBT” at the top, following by a number and the child’s name.  You will have to activate the card by calling the phone number on the back of the card.

How much will I receive?

Children enrolled in free or reduced lunch programs in March or earlier will receive the full P-EBT benefit of $302.10. Children who enrolled in April will receive $239.40.

When will I receive these benefits?

The State of Ohio’s target date for issuing the benefits is the end of May.

How can I use these benefits? 

These benefits can be used to buy food items at grocery stores and retailers that accept the Ohio Direction Card (also referred to as an EBT card).   Unused benefits will rollover month-to-month and must be used within 365 days.

I am not eligible to receive SNAP usually because of my income or immigration status.  Will I still receive P-EBT benefits?

Yes.  If your child normally receives free and reduced meals at school, you will still receive P-EBT.  Note that all families with children attending the Cleveland Metropolitan School District will receive this benefit.

What if my school district is distributing “grab and go” meals for my children?   Will I still receive the P-EBT benefits? 

Yes.  If your school district continues to offer “grab and go” meals, you can receive both the P-EBT benefit and the school offered meals.

Are emergency SNAP benefits different from P-EBT benefits?

Yes.  The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is also issuing additional SNAP (food stamp) benefits to households that do not currently get the maximum amount allowed for their household size.  The first additional benefits will be paid in April.

Click here for information about how much your household might get, how to shop for food online, and how to apply for SNAP benefits.

Questions about P-EBT? Call the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services hotline: 1-866-244-0071.  Click here for more information about P-EBT. 

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