State will provide additional food benefits during school closures

The Pandemic EBT will be made available to those with free or reduced-price meal programs

The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has partnered with the Department of Social and Health Services, to begin providing food benefits to assist with groceries while students are home from school.

Coined the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT), the food benefits will be made available to families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meal programs. Additionally, the Public Charge Rule does not apply to P-EBT benefits and will not impact immigration status. According to a news release, these benefits should be made available to qualifying families by early July.

“Many students rely on their school for nutritious meals during the day,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “These benefits will help families most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis to continue to have access to nutritious meals.”

Most families who are already receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as SNAP or Basic Food in Washington state along with those whose children already receive free or reduced lunch do not need to apply. The P-EBT benefits, which is a one-time amount of up to $399 per eligible child in each household, will automatically be deposited into existing EBT cards in early July.

Families with children who became eligible for free and reduced-price meals after their schools closed may receive less than $399 per child. Other families, such as those whose children attend a school where meals are free for all students will need to apply. Families with children who are newly eligible for free or reduced-price meals must fill out a meal application with their respective school district before June 30 and before they apply for P-EBT.

The OSPI news release states that the P-EBT benefits do not replace any Child Nutrition Program already offered and families are encouraged to continue participating in grab-n-go meals or emergency food programs at their local schools and community locations.

“I believe food is often our best medicine,” said DSHS Secretary Cheryl Strange. “Every bit of support we can provide families to help them achieve their full potential is critically important, especially during this time.”

Families with children who are eligible and approved by their school district for free or reduced-price meals and who do not currently get basic food benefits must apply online at for P-EBT before Aug. 31 or the start of the 2020-2021 school year — whichever is later.

For those who need to apply or have questions about P-EBT benefits can call the DSHS Customer Service Contact Center at 877-501-2233 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday (except observed holidays).