P-EBT Frequently Asked Questions

Updated February 27, 2023

Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) is a temporary program that gives food assistance benefits to eligible families during the federal COVID-19 public health emergency. The benefits are given on a card called an EBT card, which works like a debit card. You can use it to buy food at stores that accept EBT cards.

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Important Dates

May 1, 2023: Make sure you apply for FNS or free or reduced-price meals at your child’s school before May 1. The deadline for becoming eligible for P-EBT is May 31, and these applications can take at least a month to process.

May 11, 2023: Last day of the Federal Public Health Emergency and the final day of P-EBT. No benefits can be accrued beyond this date.

May 31, 2023: Last day to become eligible for FNS or free or reduced-price meals to be used for P-EBT eligibility. This is also the deadline for families to get any attendance records corrected if they are to be used for P-EBT.

Important Links

Who is eligible for P-EBT?

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If you participate in Food and Nutrition Services (also known as food stamps) or your children participate in the National School Lunch Program to receive free or reduced-price school meals, your household is also eligible for P-EBT. There’s no separate application.

Your child may be eligible if they are:

  • A student who attends school in person, gets free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program, and who misses school due to COVID-19 related reasons
  • A child 5 years old or younger in an active case through Food and Nutrition Services (also known as food stamps)

If you’re unsure about your child’s eligibility, take our eligibility quiz.

You’ll receive benefits for each eligible child. Just keep in mind that P-EBT eligibility is different depending on the age of the child, and/or which school they attend and their attendance record, so you’ll need to check each child’s eligibility separately.

For most families, there is no application for P-EBT. Instead, to receive benefits, you’ll need to apply for Food and Nutritional Services or the free or reduced-price meals program at your kid’s school for each of your children. Once they have been added to a Food and Nutrition Services case or approved for free or reduced-price school meals, they will automatically qualify for the P-EBT program. If the child is eligible for benefits, these will automatically be disbursed.

NOTE: Make sure you apply for FNS or free or reduced-price meals at your child’s school before May 1. The deadline for becoming eligible for P-EBT is May 31, and these applications can take at least a month to process.

The only families that will need to submit an application for P-EBT are those with students in a fully virtual school (all instruction is virtual) or who are homeschooled. In those limited cases, an invitation to apply will be sent to families directly in the mail.

No. Any child that meets all eligibility requirements—regardless of their legal or immigration status—will be eligible for P-EBT. Receiving P-EBT food assistance does not impact your immigration status and will not impact a future immigration application you may file.

If a student is not physically present in the school building for in-person learning because of a COVID-19 related situation, such as being sick or in quarantine/isolation, or in temporary virtual instruction, it is considered a COVID-19 related absence.

  • Quarantine (attendance code: 1D) refers to when the school tells the student to stay home because of COVID-19 related symptoms, illness or exposure or when a parent/guardian informs the school about a student's COVID-19 related symptoms, illness or exposure and the school approves the absence.
  • Temporary virtual instruction (attendance code: 1R for present off-site) refers to when the student is enrolled in a physical school but is in virtual or remote learning for a temporary period because of COVID-19. Students can be in temporary virtual instruction only if they are enrolled in a physical school. 

Your child’s school will determine if their absence is related to COVID-19 and will record that in their attendance record using specific codes. Contact your child’s school if you have questions about your child’s attendance record. 

Note: Absence codes only apply to in-person school attendance.

P-EBT will end on May 11, 2023, when the federal Public Health Emergency ends. That means May’s benefits will be calculated based on school attendance during the first nine school days of the month for students, and the statewide benefit amount for children will be posted with other months on the P-EBT website.

North Carolina may issue a small amount of Summer P-EBT for students who attend traditional in-person schools. Per USDA rules, young children and virtual/homeschool students will not be included in Summer P-EBT this year. Check back soon to see if 2023 Summer P-EBT gets approved.

If you would like information on other food resources, visit NC 211 provided by the United Way or dial 2-1-1 or 1-888-892-1162 to speak with someone who can tell you about resources in your area. Please note that NC 211 cannot assist with P-EBT eligibility or benefit amount.

Information on additional food resources can be found through NC SNAC resources (NC State Nutrition Action Coalition).

See if you may be eligible for FNS food assistance benefits.

First, take our eligibility quiz to see if your child meets the criteria to be eligible. Be sure to check your child’s attendance record to confirm their eligibility each month, since households will only receive benefits for days of COVID-19 related absences or temporary virtual instruction.

Then, if you believe your child is eligible and you have an FNS card or existing P-EBT card, check to see if the benefits have been issued to that card (see “How do I check my P-EBT and/or FNS card balance?”). Please note that benefit issuance will be spread over several days each month, so allow time for the benefits to be deposited.

If you still believe your child is eligible and have confirmed that you have not received benefits by following the instructions above, you can contact the EBT Call Center at 1-866-719-0141.

This year only, children in fully virtual or homeschool settings who have been impacted by COVID-19 may be eligible to participate in P-EBT and will be assessed by the state before being offered to apply. You do not need to do anything now. Those who meet certain criteria set by USDA will receive an invitation to apply in the mail in May to apply for P-EBT. This application isn't available to households who don’t fit the federal criteria. In the meantime, if families need food assistance, they can apply for FNS at NCDHHS.GOV/FNS, or seek food resources by visiting nc211.org, or calling 2-1-1 or 1-888-892-1162.

What benefits will my kid(s) receive?

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Benefits for young children in child care will vary by month.

Benefit amounts for students attending school in person are determined by school attendance records reported by the child’s school. The benefit amount will be calculated using the number of days the student’s attendance record shows they were quarantined and/or in temporary virtual instruction (P-EBT eligible days) within the month. The student will receive $8.18 for each eligible day.

Keep in mind, while your child may be eligible, P-EBT will only start to be accrued and processed once a threshold of COVID-19 related absences is met. Only students who have COVID-19 related absences after the date their school meets that threshold will receive benefits. See if your child's school has met the threshold yet.

Benefit calculation formula: # of days with a COVID-19 related absence * $8.18 (daily benefit rate) = benefit amount for the month

Example: In February, a student spent five days in quarantine, five days in temporary virtual instruction, and nine days at school in person for a total of 10 P-EBT eligible days. (The five days in quarantine and the five days in temporary virtual instruction are P-EBT eligible days. The nine days attending school in person are not eligible.) Ten days multiplied by the $8.18 daily benefit rate equals a benefit amount of $81.80 for the month of February. These benefits would be issued by the end of March.

The first issuance is in late March. After that, issuances will be monthly until the Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends on May 11, 2023. Because benefits are issued retroactively, any benefits you’re eligible for in May will be issued in June. NC strives to issue benefits during the last week of each month.

No, you will not have to pay back P-EBT benefits. P-EBT is federally funded, and there is no cost to the recipient.

You have 274 days from the date of receipt to spend your benefits. You do not have to spend the benefits all at once.

How do I access my P-EBT benefits?

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If you have an FNS (food stamps) case, check your FNS card. If you do not, your benefits will appear on your P-EBT card. If this is your first time receiving benefits, you will have a card mailed to you 1-3 weeks after issuance.

When your P-EBT card arrives it will already be loaded with the benefits that your student is eligible for so far. To access these benefits, you will need to activate your card and create a PIN. You can easily set your PIN three ways: online by visiting www.ebtEdge.com, through the ebtEDGE mobile app, or through the EBT Call Center IVR.

Important: To activate your card, you will be asked to enter the date of birth (DOB) associated with the card. Enter the DOB of the youngest student who was first eligible for P-EBT in the household. Enter the DOB as two digits for the month, two digits for the day, and four digits for the year (MM/DD/YYYY). For example, January 24, 2014 would be entered as 01242014. If there are multiple children in your household, you may need to try each child’s DOB to successfully activate your P-EBT card.

Example: The household consists of 3 students; one is 9 years old (DOB: 02/15/2014), one is 13 years old (DOB: 04/04/2009) and one is 16 years old (DOB: 01/01/2007), and the 13-year-old was the first to be eligible for P-EBT this school year. To activate the card, enter the date of birth for the 13-year-old (04042007). If the 13-year-old student’s DOB does not work, try entering the other students’ dates of birth.

Option 1: www.ebtEdge.com

  1. Log into your account. If it is your first time, you will be prompted to register.
  2. Select a card from the Welcome page. 
  3. Click on “Pin Select” and enter the requested information to confirm your identity.
  4. Confirm your PIN.
  5. Click on the “Save” button, and a confirmation message will appear.

Option 2: ebtEDGE mobile app (available on iPhone and Android)

  1. Download the ebtEDGE mobile app from the App Store or Google Play Store.
  2. Log into your account. If it is your first time, you will be prompted to register. 
  3. Select a card from the Welcome page. 
  4. Click on “Pin Select” and enter the requested information to confirm your identity.
  5. Confirm your PIN.
  6. Click on the “Save” button, and a confirmation message will appear.

Option 3: EBT Call Center IVR

Make sure you have your 16-digit card number readily available. Call 1-888-622-7328 and follow the prompts to activate your card.

You can easily check your card balance in four ways:

Option 1: www.ebtEdge.com

To check your balance using www.ebtEdge.com, log into your account. Your current balance and a list of previous transactions will show on the screen.

Your ebtEdge Cardholder Portal account will show if there are benefits posted and/or pending and when those benefits will be available for use. If your food benefit amount is listed under “Pending Items,” this means that you will not be able to spend them until the date listed below the pending deposit.

Option 2: ebtEDGE mobile app (available on iPhone and Android)

  1. Download the ebtEDGE mobile app from the App Store or Google Play Store. Look for the icon below to make sure you have the correct app.
  2. Enable location services when prompted to do so. This helps find nearby stores that accept EBT.
  3. Log into your account. If it is your first time logging in, you will be prompted to register.
  4. The current balance and a list of previous transactions will show on the screen.

Option 3: SMS text messages

Checking your balance by text message (SMS) is easy. Your cell phone number will need to be linked to the account. Follow these instructions to link your cell phone number. You will need your cell phone, P-EBT or FNS EBT card number and PIN.

  1. Log into your account on www.ebtEdge.com and select a card from the Welcome page. 
  2. Select “Messaging Registration” on the “Account Services” section of the Account Summary page.
  3. Add your cell phone number with area code and click “SMS Balance” and “Text Alerts.”
  4. Click on the “Save” button, and a confirmation message will appear.
  5. Once you have linked your cell phone number and the account, you can check your account through text at any time.
    • To check your balance, text BAL to 42265.
    • To check your last five transactions, text MINI to 42265.
    • To stop receiving these text messages, text STOP to 42265.

Please note: If you have to request a new card, it will come pre-registered with SMS, and you do not need to repeat these steps.

Option 4: EBT Call Center IVR

To check your card balance through the automated phone system of the EBT Call Center, call 1-888-622-7328 and follow the automated instructions. Please have your card number readily available. Note: Wait times can be long, so online or mobile options may be the fastest.

Children in Foster Care

  • Children 5 and under: To be eligible for P-EBT, a foster child’s household must receive FNS (food stamps) and the foster child must be included in that household’s FNS case. If the child is not included on the FNS case, they will not receive P-EBT benefits. If you are interested in adding a foster child to your FNS case, please contact your local county Division of Social Services (DSS) office. Please note that adding the child to your case may result in a change in the calculation of income on your specific FNS case.
  • Ages 6+: Eligibility for foster children aged 6-18 is based on two criteria. If both statements below are true, the child will get their own P-EBT card, which will be mailed to the Division of Social Services (DSS) office that handles their case. The DSS office will facilitate the delivery of the P-EBT card and assist with the transfer of the P-EBT card when the child changes placements.
    1. The child must attend a school participating in NSLP (check if your school participates);
    2. The child receives Free or Reduced-Price school meals. Foster children are automatically eligible to receive FRP meals, but the school must be aware of the child’s situation. 
    3. Like all students the child will only receive P-EBT benefits if they have COVID-19 related absences or temporary virtual instruction recorded by the school.

Children Who Are Migrants or Experiencing Homelessness

  • Children 5 and under: Must have an active FNS case.
  • Students who attended a school that participated in P-EBT for the 2022-23 school year, and the school is aware that they are a migrant, are automatically eligible to participate in the program. However, like all students, the child will only receive P-EBT benefits if they have COVID-19 related absences or temporary virtual instruction recorded by the school.  If the child experiences either of these and the school records these days correctly, P-EBT benefits will be added to the FNS (food stamps) account if they have a FNS case, and if not, a P-EBT card will be mailed to the last known address on file with the school.


Contact your FNS caseworker if you have one to update your address, or make sure the school has the student’s current address if you do not get FNS. If your card was mailed to a location you no longer live, please contact the call center to have it re-issued to the correct address.

P-EBT benefits are intended to provide meals for the child, so when a child changes households or caregivers the P-EBT card and benefits MUST go with them. The caregiver is the person the child is with that provides their meals.
If the child is 5 years old or younger, report the change in caregiver to your FNS (food stamps) caseworker. They will make sure the benefits are provided to the new caregiver on their FNS card. Benefits are not removed from the prior card, but the next issuance will be picked up on the new card. If the new caregiver does not participate in FNS, the child will no longer be eligible to receive P-EBT.

If the child is 6 years old or older, do the following:

  • If the child is on an FNS case, alert the FNS caseworker, as the student's benefits will begin issuing to the new caregiver's FNS card.
  • If the child is NOT on an FNS case, the P-EBT card MUST go with the child to their new caregiver.
  • Update the student's caregiver and address with their school.
  • No benefits will be removed from the prior account.