California P-EBT Benefits Guide

If you are looking for information or need help with your California P-EBT benefits, we can help. In this article, we will provide you with the most comprehensive guide on California P-EBT benefits. 

We will cover:

  • What is California P-EBT?
  • How to get California P-EBT benefits
  • California Pandemic EBT Eligibility
  • How to apply for California P-EBT
  • How to use Pandemic EBT
  • California P-EBT Deposit Schedule
  • How to check your California P-EBT balance
  • Where you can use P-EBT
  • California P-EBT Discounts
  • California P-EBT Frequently Asked Questions

"California P-EBT Benefits Help Guide"

Pandemic EBT Program

The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program was authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The program provides financial assistance to families with children that typically receive free or reduced-price school meals.

The goal of the program is to reduce the financial strain on low-income households caused by extended school closures during COVID-19.

Pandemic EBT is in line with USDA’s commitment to keeping Americans safe, secure, and healthy.

In addition, the program keeps kids fed when schools are closed during a national emergency.

To learn more about the Pandemic EBT in California, continue reading below.

What is California P-EBT Benefits

On April 29, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced new initiatives to help Californians put healthy food on the table. This included the California P-EBT program.

Families with children eligible for free or reduced-price meals are eligible to receive additional support through the Pandemic Emergency Benefits Transfer Program (P-EBT).

For the 2019–2020 school year, California had approximately 3.9 million children out of 6.2 million eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, or about 63 percent of children in participating schools.

The California P-EBT program is run jointly by the California Departments of Education (CDE) and Social Services (CDSS) and is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Children may continue to receive “grab n go” meals or emergency food at COVID-19 emergency feeding sites offered by schools and community locations, even if they are receiving P-EBT benefits.

California P-EBT Qualifications

California P-EBT benefits are provided to households with children in Pre-K through 12th grade and have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals. P-EBT benefits are intended to help those households buy food for their children during school closures.

Households that meet the following criteria qualify for Pandemic EBT in Louisiana:

  1. Families with one or more children in their household
  2. Children normally receive free and reduced price meals at school
  3. School has been closed due to the pandemic for at least five consecutive days

How Students will be identified

In the press release, Cynthia Butler, the public information officer for the CDE, indicated that eligible students will be identified through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, or CALPADS for short.

Through an executive order approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the state Department of Education was able to share CALPADS data with the state Department of Social Services (CDSS) to speed up the distribution of P-EBT benefits.

The CDSS will automatically issue P-EBT benefits to children who were directly certified for free or reduced-price meals without an application and appear in the CALPADS data, Butler noted.

California P-EBT Eligible Students

Students that attend public, charter, religious, or other non-public schools are eligible for the P-EBT program. 

If your child is still receiving “grab and go” meals from your school, you are still eligible for P-EBT enrollment.

If your child was not receiving free or reduced-price school meals before schools closed, but think you would qualify, please contact your child’s school. Ask to request a free or reduced-price meal application. 

How do I get California P-EBT?

To apply for California P-EBT benefits, you have to fill out an online application. Apply before June 30 to be eligible for benefits.

For help on how to apply for Pandemic EBT benefits in California, follow the instructions below.

"Apply for California P-EBT Benefits"

How to Apply for California P-EBT

To apply for P-EBT benefits in California, you must provide some information about the parent and student(s). 

This includes the Parent’s:

  • First and last name
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Date of Birth
  • Mailing Address, Zip Code and County
  • Home Phone Number

For your each eligible child in your household, you must provide:

  • First and last name
  • Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Date of Birth
  • Gender
  • School District
  • School Name

Once you have gathered all of the required information, you can now begin your application for P-EBT benefits.

California P-EBT Application Instructions

Follow these steps to apply for California P-EBT benefits:

Step 1 – Visit the California P-EBT Application Website

Visit the California P-EBT Online Application website at ca.p-ebt.org

Step 2 – Locate “Apply Now” Button

Once on the website, locate the “Apply Now” button. You will be taken to the “Here’s how it work:” page. Review the information on the page and click “Continue”. 

Step 3 – Check the Appropriate box

Next, you will be taken to the page below.

Check the appropriate box about your child’s eligibility as shown below. 

"How to Apply for California P-EBT Online"

Step 4 – Select the Option that applies

If you have received a California P-EBT card in the mail, select the “Yes” option, and follow the instructions below.

However, if you have not received a card in the mail, scroll down for further instructions.

"How to Apply for California P-EBT Online - 3"

Step 5 – If you received a card in the mail

If you received a card in the mail, then you are all set. Your P-EBT benefits will be loaded onto your card.

If you have any questions about when you will receive your P-EBT benefits, call the Customer Service number (1-877-328-9677) on the back of your card.

The Customer Service Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

"How to Apply for California P-EBT Online - 4"

Step 6 – If you did not receive a P-EBT Card in the Mail

If you did not receive a P-EBT card in the mail, select the “No” option, and follow the instructions below.

"How to Apply for California P-EBT Online - 5"

Step 7 – Add your child’s information

 

Next, add your eligible children as shown below and click “Continue”
to finish the California P-EBT benefits application process.

"How to Apply for California P-EBT Online - 6"

Sign up for Amazon Prime EBT Discount

How to use California P-EBT Benefits

To use your California P-EBT benefits, visit an eligible SNAP EBT store location. With your California P-EBT card you can buy groceries:

  • At most grocery stores
  • At most farmer’s markets
  • Online at Amazon and Walmart

For a detailed, step-by-step process on how to use your P-EBT card to shop online on Amazon and Walmart, see our post on How to Buy Groceries Online with California EBT.

California P-EBT Payment Schedule

Most families with children who receive CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care benefits will get their P-EBT card in the mail during the month of May. P-EBT cards will begin arriving around May 11, 2020, through May 22, 2020.

Families with children who applied for CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care benefits after their school closed will get their P-EBT card in the mail before June 30, 2020.

Families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and who do NOT get CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care benefits must apply online for P-EBT before June 30, 2020, in order to receive benefits.

Check California P-EBT Balance

There are three ways to check your California P-EBT balance – online, by phone, or using your last store receipt. To find out how to check your California P-EBT balance, follow the instructions below.

Option 1 – P-EBT Balance Check Online

The first option for checking your California P-EBT Card balance is online through the California EBT card website.

To log in, visit the ebt.ca.gov sign in, then enter your card number. Once logged in, you’ll be able to view your current balance and transaction history.

If you do not have an ebtEDGE account, you can create one here.

Option 2 – P-EBT Balance Check by Phone

The next option for checking your California P-EBT Card balance is by phone. Call the Customer Service number (1-877-328-9677) on the back of your card. The Customer Service Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

After you call, enter your sixteen (16) digit EBT card number and you will hear your current food assistance or cash account balance(s).

Option 3 – P-EBT Balance Check using the Last Receipt

The last option for checking your California P-EBT Card balance is to check your last receipt. This is the easiest and quickest way to locate the current balance on your California P-EBT Card.

Your balance will be listed at the bottom of your most recent grocery store or an ATM receipt. You should get in the habit of keeping your most current P-EBT receipt, that way, you always have a quick way to check your balance before you shop.

For a detailed step by step process on how to check your EBT card balance, see our post – California EBT Card Balance.

Sign up for Amazon Prime EBT Discount

Where to use California P-EBT

Your P-EBT benefits can be used at any store that accepts SNAP EBT benefits. Pandemic EBT benefits can be used at grocery stores, warehouse stores, mini-marts, convenience stores, markets, gas stations, specialty food stores, bakeries, farmer’s markets, and more.

Some popular California P-EBT store locations include:

  • Walmart
  • Target
  • Trader’s Joes
  • Costco
  • Sam’s Club
  • Kroger
  • ShopRite
  • Aldi
  • Albertsons
  • Food 4 Less
  • Safeway
  • Save Mart Supermarket
  • Smart & Final
  • Stater Bros
  • Vons
  • Mission Foods

In addition, you can use your California P-EBT card to purchase groceries online on Amazon and Walmart.

The state of California was recently approved by the United States Department of Agriculture to start a pilot program to allow EBT cards to be used online.

As a result, The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) recently launched the program statewide, allowing SNAP EBT benefits, including P-EBT to be used online at Walmart and Amazon for delivery and pick-up.

For a detailed step by step process on how to use your P-EBT card online, see our post – How to Buy Groceries Online with California EBT.

California P-EBT Discounts

P-EBT recipients are eligible for discounts with their EBT Card at select local attractions, online retailers, and even utility bills. 

Here are some of the most popular California EBT discounts:

Get 50% OFF Amazon Prime

If you have a California EBT Card, you can now sign up for Amazon Prime EBT Discount and get all the great benefits that come with Prime membership, at a fraction of the cost.

The regular Amazon Prime membership is $12.99 a month. However, if you have an EBT Card, you can get Prime Membership for $5.99. That’s over 50% off the regular price.

Sign up for Amazon Prime EBT Discount

Discounted Cell Phone & Home Phone Services

If you are currently a P-EBT cardholder, and your income is below a certain level, you may qualify for FREE or low-cost home or cell phone service for you or a member of your family through the Federal Lifeline Program, which serves nearly 13 million Americans.

The Lifeline program helps to lower the monthly cost of phone and internet service. Eligible customers will get at least $9.25 toward their monthly bill. You can only use Lifeline for either phone or internet service, but not both.

Farmers Markets EBT Match

A great way to stretch your food stamps benefits is to shop at farmers markets. One of those benefits is farmers markets that match EBT card spending.

We have provided a list of California Farmers markets that offer the EBT matching program (also called Market Match or Double Up Food Bucks).

You can get up to $10 per visit, meaning that if you spend $10 on your P-EBT card, you get $10 more in produce.

Therefore, for the first $10 you spend per visit, you get $20 worth of food.

See the complete list of participating farmers markets here.

Discounted Museums Admission

One of the great benefits of the California EBT Card is access to great tourist, cultural, educational, and adventure museums. You get discounted admission to museums, zoos, aquariums, and many more.

A growing number of California Museums offer individual admission fees ranging from FREE to $3.00 to individuals and families who have an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, and a valid form of photo ID.

For a complete list of all the discounts available to California P-EBT cardholders, see our post – California EBT Discounts and Perks.

"California Pandemic EBT FAQs"

California P-EBT Benefits FAQs

Get answers to the most frequently asked questions about the California P-EBT benefits program.

Where is my P-EBT Card?

Families with children who get CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care benefits do not need to apply for P-EBT.

These families will get their P-EBT cards in the mail during the month of May. P-EBT cards will begin arriving around May 12, 2020.

In addition, families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and who do not get their P-EBT card in the mail by about May 22, 2020, must apply online before June 30, 2020.

If you do not receive your P-EBT card within the dates listed above, call California’s EBT customer service center at (877) 328-9677.

You can reach customer service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The online application will be available beginning May 22, 2020, at ca.p-ebt.org.

Finally, families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and who do NOT get CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care benefits must apply online before June 30, 2020.

How much P-EBT will I get? 

P-EBT benefits are provided for each eligible child in your household. The amount is equal to the daily reimbursement cost for free breakfast and lunch at $5.70.

The daily reimbursement ($5.70) will then be multiplied by the average number of school days canceled in the month.

Families in California will get up to $365 for each child who is eligible for P-EBT benefits.

The total amount you will get depends on how many eligible children are living in your home.

Most families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals will get $365 for each child.

If you do not get your P-EBT card in the mail and you apply before June 30th, 2020, you will get the full amount of benefits.

However, families with children who applied and got CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care benefits after their school closed, may get less than $365 for each child.

This depends on when you applied for CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care.

How do I calculate how much P-EBT I will get?

To find out how much P-EBT you will get for each child, you multiply the daily reimbursement cost for free breakfast and lunch of $5.70 by the number of school days canceled in the month.

For example:

If your child’s school was canceled for a total of 20 days in May, you multiply 20 by $5.70. This means you will get a total of $114 in P-EBT benefits for May.

You will complete this calculation for EACH eligible child to get your total monthly P-EBT benefits for your household.

How long will I receive California P-EBT benefits?

The length of time you will receive California P-EBT benefits depends on your state. Currently, California families will receive P-EBT benefits through May, with the possibility of an additional benefit if California schools are closed beyond May 15. 

What should I do when I get my P-EBT card in the mail?

When you receive your P-EBT card in the mail, follow the instructions that came with your card to activate and create your private PIN number. Then your card is ready to be used to buy food in most grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

Where can I use P-EBT?

P-EBT funds can be used to purchase food wherever EBT benefits are accepted. Look for signs that say, “We accept EBT” or “We accept SNAP”. 

To find a list of approved P-EBT stores near you, click here.

Can I use P-EBT benefits online?

Yes, select states can use their P-EBT benefits online to shop for groceries at Walmart and Amazon. To find out if you state is eligible to use P-EBT online, click here

What can you buy with P-EBT?

P-EBT recipients can use their benefits to purchase the following items:

  • Breads and cereals
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat and poultry
  • Fish and seafood
  • Deli meats and steak
  • Dairy products – milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.
  • Snacks, crackers and chips
  • Bakery items and birthday cakes
  • Juice and soda
  • Ice cream and popsicles
  • Cookies and desserts

For a complete list of P-EBT eligible items, click here.

Is P-EBT retroactive?

Yes, P-EBT benefits are issued retroactively to the date when schools initially closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Depending on the date schools closed in your state, P-EBT reimbursements could be issued dating back to March 16, 2020 (their earliest school closure date in the United States).

When will P-EBT go on my card?

California families will get their P-EBT cards in the mail during the month of May. P-EBT cards will begin arriving around May 12, 2020.

In addition, families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and who do not get their P-EBT card in the mail by about May 22, 2020, must apply online before June 30, 2020.

Also, if you do not receive your P-EBT card within the dates listed above, call California’s EBT customer service center at (877) 328-9677.

Is P-EBT only for food?

Yes, P-EBT benefits can only be used to purchase food items for at-home consumption. You cannot use your P-EBT benefits to purchase hot, prepared food items or any of the following:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco products
  • Pet food
  • Soap and cleaning products
  • Medicine and prescription drugs
  • Paper products
  • Household supplies
  • Grooming items
  • Cosmetics and beauty products

How Do I Use my P-EBT Card to Purchase food?

Use your P-EBT card like a debit card. When you are ready to pay for food at the store/market:

  • Select “EBT”
  • Swipe the card
  • Enter your private PIN number

Will P-EBT be monthly?

California families will receive P-EBT benefits through May, with the possibility of an additional benefit if California schools are closed beyond May 15. 

Unused benefits will rollover month-to-month and must be used within 365 days.

When is the deadline to apply for P-EBT benefits?

If you do not get a P-EBT card in the mail, you must apply by June 30, 2020 to get P-EBT benefits. 

However, it is important to note that P-EBT benefits are only available while schools are closed due to coronavirus (COVID 19). If you did not get a P-EBT card in the mail and do not apply by June 30, 2020 you will not be able to get P-EBT benefits.

What if I applied online and haven’t received my P-EBT card?

Call California’s EBT customer service center at (877) 328-9677. You can reach them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Will I have to pay this back?

No. Families who receive P-EBT benefits will not have to pay back the benefit.

Does P-EBT replace grab and go meal sites?

No. P-EBT benefits supplement “grab and go” student meal sites. They do not replace them. You can find a meal site in your community through USDA’s Meals 4 Kids Site Finder.

What if I have shared custody of my children?

Children who are automatically eligible for P-EBT will receive their P-EBT card at the mailing address on file.

However, children who are eligible for P-EBT, but are not receiving CalFresh, Medi-Cal or Foster care benefits must apply.

The P-EBT application should be completed by the parent who is responsible for purchasing and preparing a majority of a child’s meals (more than 50%).

P-EBT benefits cannot be split on two cards, but parents can share a single P-EBT card.

California P-EBT Benefits Summary

We hope you found our list of California P-EBT benefits helpful. If you have further questions about the P-EBT program or SNAP benefits in general, please tell us in the comments section below or contact us.

Be sure to check out our other articles on California SNAP/EBT benefits, including How to Buy Groceries Online with California EBT, California EBT Discounts, How to check the Balance on California EBT Card, and List of Gas Stations that Accept EBT.

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