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Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program

View the Department of Education Pandemic EBT flyer

Pandemic-EBT Available For Students Receiving Free or Reduced-Price School Meals

$285 Per Child Makes Up For Costs Of Breakfast, Lunch They Would Have Received At School

Amid the ongoing public health crisis, Louisiana has been approved for the new Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) program. This program will provide extra help buying groceries for the families of the more than 600,000 children who normally receive free and reduced-price meals at school.

Eligible families who complete an online application will be issued a P-EBT debit card by Louisiana DCFS to access benefits. The P-EBT card will function like a standard EBT card, and the same guidelines will apply.

Families will receive $285 in total P-EBT benefits per child. Unused benefits will roll over month to month and must be used within 365 days.

Eligibility Requirements

As school facilities remain closed, households that meet the following criteria may now be eligible to receive P-EBT benefits to help them buy food for their children:

  • Households with one or more students who were enrolled in pre-K through 12th grade.
  • Students normally receive free and reduced-price meals at school or attended a school that offered discounted meals to all students regardless of household income.

Families must complete the online application to receive benefits. Without the requested information, DCFS cannot issue the P-EBT card and provide benefits.

Applicants must provide the full names of the student and parent, date of birth, home address, school, and school district. Social Security numbers are helpful, but optional.

The online application opened at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, 5/18/20. The deadline to apply is June 8 at 4:30 p.m.

If you are unable to access the portal, please try switching to a different web browser. You might also try applying from a computer instead of a phone. Also, try at night or on weekends when there is a lower volume of visitors to the site. We appreciate your patience.

P-EBT Disbursement Dates

  • UPDATED -- If you apply by May 25 at 4:30 p.m. and were approved, the card(s) should arrive in the mail by June 8.
  • If you apply between May 25 at 4:30 p.m. and June 1 at 4:30 p.m. and are approved, you can expect to receive your card(s) by June 13.
  • If you apply between June 1 at 4:30 p.m. and the deadline of June 8 at 4:30 p.m. and are approved, you can expect to receive your card(s) by June 19.



General Information

What is P-EBT?

It's an acronym for Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer. EBT is the means for issuing benefits provided by the Department of Children and Family Services.

Who created P-EBT? Who Runs it?

Congress authorized the P-EBT program in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020. The program is overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered in Louisiana by the state Department of Children and Family Services and state Department of Education.

What’s the purpose of P-EBT?

P-EBT provides benefits to households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures.

How does P-EBT work?

The Department of Education will identify eligible children, and local school systems will notify these families to apply. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) will issue a P-EBT debit card loaded with the National School Breakfast and School Lunch Program reimbursement amounts for each eligible child. The household may use the P-EBT card to buy food.

How can I get personal assistance applying for P-EBT benefits?

Call the LAHelpU Customer Service Center (888) 524-3578.

  • To speak with a customer service representative, press 9.

Or email the Customer Service Center at with a brief explanation of your reason for writing. Please include your full name as it appears in our records, all of your contact information, your date of birth and the first four digits of your Social Security number.

Is P-EBT like SNAP?

P-EBT is similar to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in that the household uses an EBT card (called a Louisiana Purchase card in our state) to buy food. Some differences are that the P-EBT application process is shorter and the money is specifically intended to replace meals that a student would have received for free or at a reduced price at school.



Who is eligible for P-EBT benefits?

Households are potentially eligible for P-EBT if they meet these three conditions:

  • They include a child who was enrolled in pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • The child received free or reduced-price school meals.
  • The child’s school has been closed due to the pandemic for at least five consecutive days.

Are students eligible if they attend charter schools, Roman Catholic schools or other non-public schools?

Yes, if your child normally received a free or reduced-price meal at school and the school closed for at least five consecutive days because of the pandemic.

Are students of virtual schools such as Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy eligble for P-EBT?

No. Virtual schools do not offer free or reduced-price meals, so they are not eligible for P-EBT.

Are students in Head Start eligible?

The only pre-K-12 students eligible for P-EBT are those whose schools participate in the National School Lunch or Breakfast programs. Most Head Start students participate in the federal Child and Adult Feeding Program, which is not included in the P-EBT program. Visit the USDA Food and Nutrition Service P-EBT guidance to find out more about the structure of the federal P-EBT program:

Are home-schooled children eligible?


My child's school provided discounted breakfast and lunch to all students - even those who don't meet federal income guidelines. Does this mean my family qualifies for P-EBT?


My child was not receiving free or reduced-price meals when school closed, but I think we would qualify for it now. How do we apply?

These families may contact their child’s school or school system to request a free and reduced- price meal application. Families must complete the form and return it before June 1. The school or school system will review the application and notify families of their eligibility. If eligible, the family would receive May benefits only: $91.20 per eligible child.

My household has no children. Can we get P-EBT?

No. See 'Who Is Eligible for P-EBT Benefits?' above for more information.

Does it matter if my household already receives SNAP?

No. See ‘Who Is Eligible for P-EBT Benefits?’ above for more information.

If I already receive SNAP, will P-EBT alter my SNAP benefits?

No. P-EBT is an additional benefit that does not affect SNAP benefits.

My regular SNAP case will be closed soon because my income has increased. Will I still be eligible for P-EBT?

Yes, if your child was eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school and you apply on the P-EBT portal before June 8 at 4:30 p.m.

How will I find out if I am eligible for P-EBT?

Local school systems will notify families of eligible children that they may apply for P-EBT. Families can expect to be notified by May 25.

I think I'm eligible but I did not receive notification from my school system. How can I get the benefits?

If you have not been notified by May 25, visit the P-EBT portal  on the Louisiana Department of Education website and complete the application there.

What if my children are still receiving meals from their closed schools? Are they eligible for P-EBT?

Yes. Many Louisiana public schools already are providing emergency or “grab and go” meals to children regardless of enrollment, family size or income. Households may receive these meals as well as P-EBT benefits.



What happens after I receive notice from the local school system?

Upon notification, these families may apply for the benefits by visiting the P-EBT portal  on the Louisiana Department of Education website. The portal opens May 18, and the deadline to apply is June 8 at 4:30 p.m. State officials expect considerable interest in this program and ask that applicants be patient in accessing the portal; if they encounter difficulty at first, please try later.

Is the portal open all day every day?

Yes. You may apply at any time before June 8 at 4:30 p.m.

How will I know if I'm approved?

Once you complete your application in the portal, the computer system will notify you that you have successfully submitted it. That means the information you supplied matches the child’s information in the school records and that the child is eligible for P-EBT.

We’ll then verify that no other person has applied in the name of the same child. If not, you are approved for P-EBT. You will receive no additional notice before your P-EBT card arrives in the mail. Here is the mailing schedule:

  • For most who applied before May 25 at 4:30 p.m. and were approved, the card(s) should arrive in the mail by June 8.
  • If you apply between May 25 at 4:30 p.m. and June 1 at 4:30 p.m. and are approved, you can expect to receive your card(s) by June 13.
  • If you apply between June 1 at 4:30 p.m. and the deadline of June 8 at 4:30 p.m. and are approved, you can expect to receive your card(s) by June 19.

Are Social Security numbers required in the application?

Social Security numbers are not required on the P-EBT application. However, the processing of your application will likely be quicker if you provide Social Security numbers for the parent and each eligible student. Also, the parent’s Social Security number is used to create the personal identification number (PIN) for the P-EBT debit card.

The application portal freezes on me, kicks me out or tells me “runtime error.” What’s wrong?

That usually signals incompatibility between your device and our computer system. We suggest switching to another Internet browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox. You might also try using a computer if one is available, instead of a phone. It’s also important to ensure you have a strong, secure internet connection. 

I tried to apply on the portal but received an ineligible message.

Your information and that of your child must exactly match the information in your local school’s records. Please contact your local school or school system for the exact information and try to apply again.

I've made a mistake on my application. May I correct it?

We will be launching a new feature to let you to correct your address, zip code and parish of residence. When it’s available, we will post notice of it on the Department of Children and Family Services social media accounts.

My ex-spouse and I share custody of our child. Do we each get a P-EBT card for the child?

No, only one parent should apply. If approved, that parent will receive the P-EBT card. If both parents applied, the one who applied first will be approved and receive the card.

What if I'm not approved for P-EBT but want to appeal the decision?

Families should check with their local school system to ensure their application for free or reduced-price meals was approved. If not approved, families may follow the appeals instructions provided in the original meals application.



How much P-EBT money do eligible families receive?

The amount is $285 per eligible child. That’s $5.70 for each of the 50 days that school was closed from March 16 through May 22.

Is the $285 per child a one-time payment?

Yes. It represents total reimbursement for the cost of breakfast and lunch that students would have received at school in the 50 days schools were closed due to the pandemic.

Is the benefit retroactive to the beginning of school closures? Does it cover all meals to the end of the school year?

Yes, P-EBT covers school meals missed since March 16, the first day that schools closed for the pandemic, through May 22, for a total of 50 school days.

 When will benefits be available on cards?

The cards that are mailed to eligible households will already have benefits loaded.

How long do P-EBT recipients have to use the benefit?

Households may access all benefits on the card for 365 days.


Debits Cards

How long will it take to get my card?

  • For most who applied before May 25 at 4:30 p.m. and were approved, the card(s) should arrive in the mail by June 8.
  • If you apply between May 25 at 4:30 p.m. and June 1 at 4:30 p.m. and are approved, you can expect to receive your card(s) by June 13.
  • If you apply between June 1 at 4:30 p.m. and the deadline of June 8 at 4:30 p.m. and are approved, you can expect to receive your card(s) by June 19.

What if I don't receive a card by mid-June?

Email LAHelpU.dcfs@LA.GOV or call (888) LAHELPU.

I already have a SNAP card. Will I receive a separate card for P-EBT?

Yes, if your household is eligible. P-EBT is a separate program and has its own EBT card.

Where can I use a P-EBT card?

The P-EBT card can be used at any retailer that accepts SNAP benefits. Locate a SNAP retailer with this interactive tool.

 Can I use a P-EBT card to buy food online?

No. Online shopping is not allowed for Louisiana P-EBT benefits.

What can I buy with P-EBT benefits?

Eligible items are household foods such as fruits and vegetables; meat, poultry and fish; dairy products; breads and cereals; snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages; and seeds and plants that produce food for the household to eat.

Ineligible: Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes and tobacco; vitamins, medicines and supplements (if an item has a “supplement facts” label, it is not eligible for P-EBT purchase; live animals (except shellfish, fish removed from water and animals slaughtered before pick-up from the store); prepared foods that are fit for immediate consumption; hot foods; pet foods; cleaning supplies, paper products and other household supplies; hygiene items and cosmetics.

How do I check my balance?

Call the EBT customer service number on the back of the card.

May I give my card to another person to buy food?


Will P-EBT cover summer food programs?

No, P-EBT covers only school meals missed in March, April and May. However, children may still participate in summer meal programs.

Where can I find information about summer meal programs?

Families may contact their local school system, or consult a parish-by-parish list and map of school meal sites on the COVID-19 page on the Louisiana Department of Education’s website.

I received a P-EBT card but don’t want to receive the benefits? What do I do?

Please cut the P-EBT card in half and dispose of it.

If I cut up the card and do not use the benefits, what happens to the money that I did not spend?

After 365 days, the benefits will be erased from the card and the money will revert to the federal treasury.

Additional Information

For more information, families can contact the LAHelpU Call Center at 1-888-524-3578.