School Pandemic EBT 2020-2021 Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions about School Pandemic EBT (P-EBT).

 Background

What is P-EBT?

P-EBT is a program that provides temporary benefits to families of children who normally get free or reduced-price school meals at school but could not because they have been learning from home full or part time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who can get P-EBT benefits?

School-aged children may be able to get these benefits if both the following apply:

  • They are enrolled to get free or reduced-price meals at a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program (PDF)
  • Their school responded to a survey from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and reported that students in your child’s grade learned from home either full or part time during the 2020-2021 school year.

If you are new to a school or school district, if your child did not get free or reduced-price meals last school year, or if you recently moved or had a change in income, you should fill out an application for free or reduced-price school meals. For more information about this application, contact your child's school.

How do I know if my child's school participates in the National School Lunch Program?

Check this list of participating schools (PDF).

Note: If you have any questions about why your child’s school is not on this list, contact the school.

Do children in day care qualify for P-EBT benefits?

A separate program is available to help families of younger children who were under the age of 6 as of October 1, 2020 and who did not receive School P-EBT. This is known as Pre-6 P-EBT. Find information about Pre-6 P-EBT online.

Are children who are no longer enrolled in school and are being homeschooled because of COVID-19 eligible to get P-EBT? 

No. Children who are no longer enrolled in a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program and are being homeschooled are not eligible to get P-EBT for 2020-2021 school year.

How much can I get through P-EBT?

We are able to provide $6.82 for each day a child learned from home and did not get meals at school. The total amount of benefits that a family can get for an individual child is based on how much time the child’s school said students in each grade learned from home.

Because what a school reported could be different for different schools in the same district or different grades within a school, the benefits a family gets may be different from child to child. It may also be different from month to month. A child may not get benefits for a month for many reasons, such as:

  • The child’s school had not started classes yet.
  • The child’s school had not been closed or operated with reduced hours or attendance for at least five days in a row before that month.
  • The child’s school reported that all or a majority of students were learning in person.

Where can I use my P-EBT benefits?

P-EBT benefits may be used in any store that accepts FoodShare. Major grocery chains and convenience stores accept P-EBT cards.

What food can I buy with P-EBT benefits?

You can use the benefits to buy food, such as:

  • Breads and cereals.
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Meats, fish, and poultry.
  • Dairy products.
  • Snack foods.
  • Seeds and plants to grow food for your family to eat.

See a more detailed list of items you can and cannot buy with the benefits.

 Getting benefits

When will the 2020-2021 benefits be issued?

P-EBT benefits were first issued to families with eligible children for the 2020-2021 school year at the end of March. The benefits provided in March were for the months of August through November 2020. Benefits for the months of December 2020 through March 2021 will be issued on June 26, 2021.

What do the P-EBT letters look like?

There are three different letters sent to families whose addresses are on file with DHS. These letters indicate whether families get P-EBT benefits for certain months, and if so, how much for each child for each month. The April letters gave information for August, September, October, and November 2020.

DHS will be making videos available that talk about these letters. To be notified when this will happen, sign up for P-EBT updates.

You can see a sample of each of the letters:

What should I do if I feel my child should have gotten P-EBT benefits but did not?

If your child has not received P-EBT benefits for the 2020-2021 school year and you think they should have, please contact the P-EBT support team by phone at 833-431-2224, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding holidays), or by email. When you reach out, please be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Child’s full name, date of birth, school, and grade
  • Your full name, case number (found at the bottom of each page of your notification letter), email address, phone number, and preferred language.

I applied for P-EBT benefits for the 2019-2020 school year. Do I need to fill out another application?

You do not need to apply for P-EBT benefits, but you should make sure your child is enrolled in free or reduced-priced school meals and that your address is up-to-date with your school. If you get a letter in the mail in April informing you about your benefits, you do not need to apply.

If your child attends a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) school where all meals are provided for free, you do not need to apply for free or reduced-priced school meals.

My child got benefits last year. Will they automatically get benefits this school year?

No, just because a child got P-EBT benefits last year does not mean they will get them this school year. Your child must meet the requirements described above in "Who can get P-EBT benefits?"

I think my child is eligible for free or reduced-price meals but I haven't enrolled. Can I still get P-EBT benefits?

To get P-EBT benefits, your child’s school must first have decided that your child can get free or reduced-price meals. You should contact your school for an application (sometimes called an “F and R application”) and apply as soon as possible.

What time period will P-EBT benefits cover?

Benefits will be provided going back to the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Benefits provided to eligible families in March were for the months of August through November 2020. Beneftis will be provided to eligible families on June 26, 2021 for the months of December 2020 through March 2021.

How often will benefits be provided?

Benefits for the months of December 2020 through March 2021 will be issued on June 26, 2021.

How are P-EBT benefits provided?

Families eligible to get benefits who have an active QUEST card will have their benefits added to that card.Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, showing front and back

Families eligible to get benefits who do not have an active QUEST card will get a P-EBT card in the mail. Benefits will be added to it. The card can be used like a debit card to buy food.

Even if a family got benefits for the 2019-2020 school year, benefits for the 2020-2021 school year will be on a new P-EBT card. When a family gets their new card, they must activate the card. Once the new card is activated, any old P-EBT card (from the 2019-2020 school year) will no longer be usable.

Note: A P-EBT card sent to you this year should not be thrown away, even if all the benefits on it are spent. Future benefits for the 2020-2021 school year will be added to that card.

Why aren't my children's benefits the same for every month?

The benefits a family gets may be different from child to child or be different from month to month. There are many reasons for this, such as:

  • Your child’s school reported that children in some grades learned in person while others learned from home
  • Your child’s school reported that in some months children learned from home, while in other months they learned in-person

If you believe you didn't get the right benefits, contact the P-EBT support team by phone at 833-431-2224, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding holidays), or by email.

What if I don’t want to use my benefits? Can I give it back or give it to someone else?

Participation in P-EBT is voluntary. If you choose not to participate, please dispose of your card by cutting through the magnetic stripe on the card and throw the card out.

Note: There is no advantage to you if you return or decide not to use your P-EBT benefits. Using P-EBT will not result in a FoodShare overpayment.

You cannot give your card to someone else. It is illegal to sell, trade, or give your P-EBT benefits to another person. If you do this, you could become ineligible for the program, be fined, or even arrested.

 P-EBT and QUEST card information

How are P-EBT benefits issued?

Families eligible to get benefits who have an active QUEST card will have their benefits added to that card.Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, showing front and back

Families eligible to get benefits who do not have an active QUEST card will get a P-EBT card in the mail. Benefits will be added to it. The card can be used like a debit card to buy food.

Even if a family got benefits for the 2019-2020 school year, benefits for the 2020-2021 school year will be on a new P-EBT card. When a family gets their new card, they must activate the card. Once the new card is activated, any old P-EBT card (from the 2019-2020 school year) will no longer be usable.

Note: A P-EBT card sent to you this year should not be thrown away, even if all the benefits on it are spent. Future benefits for the 2020-2021 school year will be added to that card.

If I have more than one child, will I get a different P-EBT card for each child?

If you have more than one child approved for P-EBT, you will get one card that has all the benefits on it.

How long will I have access to the P-EBT benefits on the card?

Benefits must be used within one year of the date they are put on the card. They will automatically be removed from the card after one year.

Who will get the P-EBT card if parents are divorced or separated?

P-EBT benefits will be provided to the current household that the state has on file for a child.

What if I get a P-EBT card but my child is no longer in my care?

If your child is not in your care, you are not eligible to get P-EBT benefits for the child. Call the P-EBT support line at 833-431-2224, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding holidays), if you got benefits that you are not eligible for.

How do I activate my P-EBT card?

Families should follow the instructions that come in the mail with their P-EBT card. These instructions will explain how to activate and use the card. If there are questions, call QUEST Card Service at 877-415-5164.

How can I check the balance on my card?

You can check the balance on your card at any time by going to the ebtEDGE website or using the ebtEDGE mobile app.

What should I do with my old P-EBT card?

Make sure there are no benefits remaining on the card. You can check the balance on your card at any time by going to the ebtEDGE website or using the ebtEDGE mobile app.

A limited number of families may find that they can access their 2020-2021 benefits on their old P-EBT card from last year. These families can use the benefits added to the old card until they get their new P-EBT card in the mail. The benefits available on the old card will be removed from that card on April 27, 2021, or once they activate a new P-EBT card. At that time, benefits can only be accessed using the new P-EBT card.

Once you have activated your new P-EBT card, you can throw the old one away.

I am currently getting FoodShare benefits and have a QUEST card. Can P-EBT benefits be added to that card?

If you already have a QUEST card and qualify for P-EBT, P-EBT benefits will be automatically added to your QUEST card.

What if my FoodShare benefits were added to my P-EBT card?

A limited number of families may have had their FoodShare benefits added to their P-EBT card. If this happened to you, you can continue to use your P-EBT card for all eligible purchases without any problem. Benefits for both FoodShare and P-EBT will continue to be loaded on your P-EBT card unless you ask for a QUEST card. To ask for a QUEST card, call QUEST Card Service at 877-415-5164.

Note: When the QUEST card is sent, your P-EBT card will be canceled. If you ask for a QUEST card, you will be unable to use your P-EBT or FoodShare benefits while the QUEST card is being processed and mailed.

I didn't get my P-EBT card. What should I do?

Your P-EBT card will come separate from your notification letter. Call QUEST Card Service at 877-415-5164.

I lost my card. How do I get a replacement?

If you lost your P-EBT card, call QUEST Card Service at 877-415-5164 to get a new one.

 Issues and concerns

What should I do if I feel my child should have gotten P-EBT benefits but did not?

If your child has not received P-EBT benefits for the 2020-2021 school year and you think they should have, please contact the P-EBT support team by phone at 833-431-2224, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding holidays), or by email. When you reach out, please be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Child’s full name, date of birth, school, and grade
  • Your full name, case number (found at the bottom of each page of your notification letter), email address, phone number, and preferred language.

Will my immigration status be affected or will I become a public charge if I get these benefits?

No. your immigration status is not affected, and you will not become a public charge.

Is P-EBT eligibility affected by having taken advantage of “grab-and-go” and/or summer meals offered by schools?

No. P-EBT benefits are not affected by whether children got “grab-and-go” meals or school meals in the summer.

I need food help now. What can I do?

P-EBT does not replace other food assistance. If your family does not already get FoodShare benefits, you should visit the ACCESS website to see if you can get help. Families can also call 211 to find other food resources in their communities.

What if I have problems with my P-EBT or QUEST card?

If you need help with your QUEST or P-EBT card, please call QUEST Card Service at 877-415-5164.

Last Revised: August 19, 2021

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