California P-EBT

The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) in California is a response designed to replace missed school meals during closures brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This program provided emergency nutrition benefits via EBT cards, which eligible families could use to purchase food.

Although the issuance of new P-EBT benefits concluded in the fall of 2023 with the end of the federal Public Health Emergency, funds remaining on the cards from all P-EBT phases (1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0) can still be used.

Historical Phases of P-EBT in California

  1. P-EBT 1.0: Targeted children eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the 2019-2020 school year, distributing $1.58 billion across 3.5 million children.
  2. P-EBT Extension: Covered additional benefits for August and September 2020, benefiting over 3.3 million children with $627 million in food benefits.
  3. P-EBT 2.0: Extended benefits from October 2020 through August 2021, including the summer of 2021, which saw the first issuance of Summer P-EBT benefits.
  4. P-EBT 3.0: Covered the 2021-2022 school year, providing monthly benefits of $45 for children under six and $60 for school-aged children, with a standard summer benefit amounting to $391.
  5. P-EBT 4.0: The final iteration, covering August 2022 through May 2023, included varied benefit amounts depending on the child’s schooling situation and pandemic-related school absences.

Who Was Eligible for P-EBT 3.0?

There were two main categories of eligible children in P-EBT 3.0:

  • Young Children (Under 6): This group included children under the age of 6 as of August 1, 2021, who participated in the CalFresh food assistance program at least once between August 2021 and August 2022.
  • School-Aged Children (TK-12): This category included students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade who received free or reduced-price meals at their schools during the 2021-2022 school year. The specific number of missed school days determined their benefit amount.

Important Note: P-EBT benefits were distributed automatically based on existing program participation. Families typically did not need to apply separately.

How Much in Benefits Did Children Receive?

The benefit amount for P-EBT 3.0 varied depending on the child’s category:

  • Young Children: These children received an average of $45 per month for each month they participated in CalFresh during the 2021-2022 school year. The exact monthly amount could differ slightly.
  • School-Aged Children: The benefit amount for school-aged children depended on the number of school days they missed due to COVID-19. Students who missed five or more days received $7.10 for each missed day.

In addition to these regular benefits, P-EBT 3.0 also provided a standard summer benefit of $391 per eligible child, helping families bridge the gap during the summer months (June-August 2022).

Transition to Summer EBT

As P-EBT winds down, California is transitioning to a permanent Summer EBT program starting in 2024. This initiative targets low-income families with school-aged children who lose access to free and reduced-price meals during the summer.

Eligibility is primarily determined by participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). The program provides a set benefit amount, generally $120 per eligible child for the summer, which can be used at various food retailers​.

Eligibility and Distribution

For the Summer 2024 EBT, children must be enrolled in a public school that participates in NSLP or SBP. Families with incomes at or below 185% of the federal poverty level are eligible.

The benefits are distributed automatically based on enrollment and eligibility status, without the need for an application process. Distribution is planned between May and September 2024.

Future of Nutrition Assistance

The new Summer EBT program is part of a broader effort to reduce child hunger and improve diet quality during the summer months. It aligns with federal strategies to ensure that children have consistent access to nutritious food year-round.

This initiative is supported by evidence from pilot programs that demonstrated significant reductions in child hunger and improvements in dietary habits​.

For detailed information about ongoing and future EBT initiatives, visit the California Department of Social Services website or check out resources on the USDA’s official page.

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