Retroactive food assistance for students now available through EBT

Published 2:58 pm Friday, February 25, 2022

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Eligible children that did not receive assistance through the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program for the 2020-2021 school year will now receive a retroactive benefit payment. This single retroactive payment will be sent to children who experienced a change in P-EBT eligibility status during the 2020-2021 school year or that were not accounted for initially.

Eligibility for P-EBT is based on National School Lunch Program qualification and school attendance related to COVID-19. P-EBT is administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE). Both departments were instrumental in initiating Retroactive P-EBT to assist additional children who did not receive program benefits during the 2020-2021 school year.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused much uncertainty and changes to daily routines for families, especially those that rely on school meals,” said TDHS Commissioner Clarence H. Carter. “In partnership with TDOE, we’ve taken steps to ensure that all children eligible for P-EBT receive the benefit, despite fluctuations and changes that occurred during the last school year.”

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Retroactive P-EBT is available to children who did not receive P-EBT that they qualified for in the 2020-2021 school year (also known as P-EBT Round 2 and 3) but would have based on their National School Lunch Program (NSLP) eligibility and attendance related to COVID-19. Some children were determined as eligible for P-EBT benefits after P-EBT Round 2 and 3 benefits were issued, resulting in the need to issue Retroactive P-EBT benefits.

In general, Retroactive P-EBT is based on the child qualifying for free or reduced-price school meals later in the school year. And, the child missed school meals because the school was closed or operated at reduced attendance for at least 5 consecutive days in the 2020-2021 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parents do not have to apply for Retroactive P-EBT benefits. The amount of P-EBT benefits will vary for each individual child. Benefits are now distributed on

existing P-EBT cards beginning on March 4, 2022. If the card has been lost, parents can request a new one by visiting to request a new P-EBT card or call 1-888-997-9444. Qualifying children who have not received a P-EBT card will be issued one. P-EBT cards are used like a debit card to purchase food at participating grocers and online stores.

Parents can view the status of their child’s Retroactive P-EBT eligibility on the P-EBT Parent Portal by visiting TDHS is also introducing a new text messaging feature that allows parents to receive updates on the status of a child’s P-EBT benefits via text message. Parents can sign up for the text messaging service by visiting the P-EBT Parent Portal at

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 (PL 116–127, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021 (PL 116-260), and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (PL 117-2) provides the Secretary of Agriculture authority to approve state agency plans to administer P-EBT. Approved state agencies may operate P-EBT when a school is closed or has been operating with reduced attendance or hours for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation when the school would otherwise be in session.

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Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services at:

More information on P-EBT can be found at: