RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday in a press release it has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to operate the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program during the rest of the 2022-23 school year.

The P-EBT program this school year will continue until the federal COVID-19 public health emergency ends on May 11. The first rounds of benefits for K-12 students and young children in child care are targeted to be issued in March and will cover benefits accrued from September 2022 through February 2023. 

The P-EBT program helps eligible K-12 students and young children who cannot access free or reduced-price meals at school or in childcare centers due to COVID-19-related absences or closures. For these children, the P-EBT program provides benefits on a debit-like card that can be used to buy food at authorized retailers, including most major grocery stores. With most students now receiving meals in school, many will no longer get P-EBT or will receive only a small amount when the student experiences a COVID-19-related absence.

“The P-EBT program has been a critical resource for so many North Carolina families,” said Susan Gale Perry, NCDHHS chief deputy secretary for Opportunity and Well-Being. “When a child misses a day of school or child care, the reality for many is missing out on meals that day too. The P-EBT program has helped to fill in the gaps for more than 1.6 million children since the beginning of the pandemic and we look forward to providing more nutrition assistance this school year.” 

If your child is eligible to receive P-EBT, benefits will be automatically added to your P-EBT or Food and Nutrition Services card without your family having to take action. If this is your first time receiving P-EBT for your child, your family will be automatically mailed a card one to three weeks after the first issuance for which you are eligible.

Like last year, students attending school are automatically eligible for P-EBT if they are approved for free or reduced-price school meals through the National School Lunch Program, but they will only get P-EBT benefits for days their attendance record reflects they had one or more COVID-19 related absences. Families can check HERE to see if their child’s school participates in the National School Lunch Program. For more information on COVID-19 absences and benefits, visit NCDHHS’s P-EBT Frequently Asked Questions

Children 5 years old and younger are automatically eligible for P-EBT if they Food and Nutrition Services (also known as SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). Benefit amounts for this age group will be calculated monthly and posted to the P-EBT website

Families should apply for free or reduced-price meals through their child’s school or for FNS before May 1. The deadline for becoming eligible is May 31 for both students AND young children, and these applications can take at least a month to process.

Families can apply for FNS online at epass.nc.gov or through their local DSS office by filling out a paper application.

Families can learn more about additional food and nutrition resources at www.ncdhhs.gov/foodresources and www.nc211.org or by dialing 211, especially if their child(ren) are no longer eligible for P-EBT or they need help buying food after P-EBT ends.

NCDHHS continues to prioritize nutrition security for children and families across the state. North Carolina was one of the first states to launch P-EBT early in the pandemic. The federally funded program has provided more than $2.3 billion of groceries to more than 1.6 million North Carolina children at risk of hunger due to school closures and COVID-19 related absences since the start of the pandemic to date. P-EBT is made possible through a partnership between NCDHHS and the NC Department of Public Instruction. 

NCDHHS will announce when issuances begin through social media and on the P-EBT website. Visit the P-EBT website for up-to-date information about the program.