Illinois families of eligible children may have received a Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) card in an unmarked envelope, as the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) began sending them out in March.

“The purpose of P-EBT is to provide food assistance to families with students who would have received free or reduced lunch while attending school but are not receiving these meals in school due to COVID-19 restrictions,” according to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) website.

P-EBT provides benefits to children who meet certain requirements as listed on the IDHS website. Eligible children must receive free or reduced-school meals under the National School Lunch Program and must be without access to an in-school meal. The child’s school must have been closed or operating remotely for at least five consecutive days during the 2020-21 school year and must participate in the National School Lunch Program.

Forest Park elementary schools in District 91 and Proviso Township high schools in District 209 are on the ISBE’s list of eligible schools.

Students attending a school operating under a hybrid model will receive benefits for the days they did not have access to school meals, granted that the school participates in the National School Lunch Program.

According to the IDHS website, benefits of $6.82 per day are provided for days that students are in remote learning but not offered a meal or are at home for an approved COVID-related absence.

Families do not need to apply for the P-EBT program; if a student is eligible, the card will automatically be sent to the family’s registered address.

Families are advised to keep the card; future benefits will be loaded on to it. If a family received a card for the 2019-20 school year, a new one will be sent for the current school year.

Benefits for the 2020-21 school year will begin to be distributed in March, during which families will receive money for the months of August through December 2020. Distribution for the months of January through March 2021 will be received in April. In May, benefits for the remainder of the school year will be distributed.

More information about the P-EBT program is available at the IDHS website at