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COVID-19 has created a crisis situation for many individuals and families. We’ve created this page to keep Coloradans up to date on changes to Food Assistance programs through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (including Pandemic EBT, or P-EBT), as well as Food Distribution Programs through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you still have questions, please contact your local SNAP office.
Important note regarding P-EBT benefits: The application page is not ready yet. More information will be provided on how to register once it is available.
Download a PDF version of these P-EBT FAQs here. Download the Spanish version here.
Recent federal law to support COVID-19 relief created the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program as an important nutritional resource to families who lost access to free or reduced-price school meals as schools across Colorado closed in response to COVID-19. P-EBT provides households with an EBT card funded with the value of the free school breakfast and lunch reimbursement rates for the days that schools have been closed in March, April and May, which equals $5.70 per day.
In an effort to support Colorado’s families during the COVID-19 epidemic, CDHS and the Colorado Department of Education have teamed up to secure USDA approval to issue Pandemic-EBT (P-EBT) benefits to school-age children who would have received free or reduced-price lunches during the time that schools have been closed.
In Colorado, P-EBT will support healthy and wholesome meals for approximately 363,000 children who would typically receive free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches while in school. Because schools have been closed due to COVID-19, some students have experienced increased food insecurity while not being at school to receive meals. P-EBT is a way to re-direct funding that usually supports school lunches directly to families.
Both CDHS and the Colorado Department of Education are working proactively with school districts, grocery stores and other vendors, and outreach organizations throughout the state such as Mile High United Way and Hunger Free Colorado to build the infrastructure and supports needed to assist all families eligible for P-EBT in any stage of the benefit process, including application, purchasing, using an EBT card, and any other areas that arise.
Households with students who receive free or reduced-price lunches, including through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and those attending a school that operates a Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program are eligible for P-EBT benefits. This also means students who were not already participating in the free or reduced-price lunch program could potentially be eligible for P-EBT depending on household size and income; this could be the case for families with school-aged children that have recently lost income during COVID-19. Key information on applying for P-EBT is anticipated to come directly from family’s schools and school districts.
If a family that is eligible is currently participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), no action is needed; benefits will be automatically issued for the school-aged children in the household. Families that currently do not participate in the SNAP program, and whose children attend a school that participates in the National School Lunch Program, will receive instructions and key information through the family’s school or school district on how to receive those benefits in June.
The USDA has approved benefits to eligible students based on the average statewide school days that were missed in March, April, and May, which is a maximum of 49 days for Colorado.
Depending on specific student eligibility (for example, the student was not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch in March, but is eligible in April and May), the specific P-EBT allotment to the household will be prorated on a monthly basis.
The 49-day breakdown is as follows:
$5.70 per child per school day (to the statewide maximum of 49 days, which would equal a one-time issuance of $279 to the EBT card). Benefits will be available for the household to access on the EBT card for one year.
If a student is determined to be eligible for only certain portions of the 49 days, the student’s household will receive an amount prorated to the number of eligible days.
No. P-EBT is a separate program that is designed to support the replacement of meals students would have received while at school. P-EBT benefits can be used in a similar way to SNAP benefits, but these are two different programs and sets of benefits which both can be accessed through the EBT card.
No. P-EBT benefits will supplement the grab-and-go meal sites created in response to COVID-19 school closures. They do not replace them.
Families can find a meal site in their community through CDE’s resource list here. We encourage families to use both resources.
If you are a household with children who receive free or reduced-price lunches through the NSLP, you will receive additional information and key details from your school or school district.
If you are a household with children that are not currently eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, but believe you may now be eligible due to changes in income, please contact your school or school district for information on how to apply. If you are a household with children who do not participate in the NSLP, but could be newly-eligible for free or reduced-price lunches at school based on COVID-19 household income changes and you have not yet received a communication from your child’s school, please reach out to your child’s school to confirm participation. If your child’s school does not participate in free or reduced-price lunch or the NSLP, you may not qualify for the P-EBT benefit. Additional benefits and meal resources can be found through CDE’s resource list here and Hunger Free Colorado’s resource list here.
You can also send questions by email to PEBT2020@state.co.us.
No. All households who are eligible for P-EBT may receive it, regardless of immigration status. P-EBT is a pandemic emergency benefit based on free or reduced-price school meal eligibility, and similar to other benefits that the Department Homeland Security has stated that it is excluded from consideration in public charge. Household information that is used to determine eligibility is protected under both federal and state data privacy practices.
Yes, P-EBT is considered part of SNAP benefits. Households can earn Double Up Food Bucks (also known as the GusNIP Incentive) by making qualifying purchases using P-EBT benefits. For more information on Double Up Food Bucks, click here.
CDHS, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has made it possible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants to purchase eligible food online for the first time with their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This is possible as a result of a federal waiver from USDA Food and Nutrition Services that allowed for an emergency request to expand a pilot program permitting SNAP recipients to purchase grocery and food delivery online.
Beginning May 29, this option will be available for SNAP (also known as Food Assistance) participants, as well as Colorado Works and Old Age Pension participants, to make online food delivery purchases on their EBT card.
Currently only two approved retailers – Walmart and Amazon – are accepting EBT cards for online purchases.
Additional fees do apply, but both retailers – Walmart and Amazon – have established accessibility opportunities for SNAP participants to use their service at a very low cost. Delivery fees, tips and non-eligible purchases such as alcohol or tobacco cannot be purchased using SNAP benefits.
CDHS is working with the USDA to bring more retailers, including local grocers, into the program in the future.
Download a PDF version of these Food Assistance and Food Distribution FAQs here. Download the Spanish version here.
Choose one of the options below to apply for Food Assistance benefits. Try to provide as much information as you can on the application to make the process faster.
Outreach partners can help you apply by phone:
Visit the Colorado PEAK website at https://colorado.gov/PEAK from a computer or tablet to complete an application online.
Download the MyCOBenefits app to apply from a smartphone
If you are approved, you will be able to see benefit amounts.
Paper applications are still available at your county office, even if it is closed.
Once you complete your paper application, you can drop it off at the county office or send it in by mail, fax or email.
If you are interested in applying for other assistance programs, you can select the programs that you are interested in when you complete the application.
If you apply by phone for Food Assistance, you will need a separate paper, PEAK, or MyCOBenefits mobile app application to apply for other assistance programs.
Students can apply and may be eligible for Food Assistance.
If you are a student and have recently lost work or work-study, you could be eligible for Food Assistance.
After you submit an application, the county will review your information. If the county has questions, they may be calling the phone number from your application to contact you to make sure you get the correct benefits.
To check the status of your application, you can log into your PEAK account at https://colorado.gov/PEAK or on the MyCOBenefits mobile app.
Counties are trying to make food benefits easier for you to access, so interviews may not be necessary but they still may need to contact you for other information.
If the county does need to contact you for more information, the county will try to call you at the phone number you provided on your application.
The county will reach out to you to reschedule if an interview still needed.
If you lost your job or have been laid off, you should apply for Food Assistance immediately.
Please provide as much information as you can about your layoff.
Your application and information will be reviewed by the county to determine if you are eligible to receive benefits within seven days.
Counties are trying to make the application process easier by allowing for more flexibility in what you need to provide.
The county will try to get all of the information they need for you but may still need to call you at the phone number from your application if they have questions.
County offices are working quickly to update your case with any information that you have provided them.
Due dates for the information the county office requested have not changed.
County offices are working as quickly as they can to process applications.
Normal processing can take from 7 days to 30 days but counties are trying to shorten all processing times.
There are two ways to check the status of your application:
Your benefits are loading onto Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards which work a lot like a debit card in stores where you can buy food.
Your EBT card can be mailed to you once you are approved.
An EBT card getting mailed to you can take 7-10 days to reach you.
If you do not have a home address, your EBT card can be mailed to an address that you choose such as a shelter or a place where you can pick up mail.
You will receive a brochure with your EBT card that will explain more information about using your EBT card.
If you had an EBT card before but need another one, you can call 1-888-328-2656.
The eligibility worker at the county can help you indicate the person who can help you access your benefits and help with shopping, called an authorized representative.
Your authorized representative can have a card mailed to them and it cannot be used before they receive it.
Some Walmart locations have the technology to let you process shopping orders for pick-up using the Food Assistance benefits with your EBT card.
Unfortunately, in Colorado you cannot make an online purchase using your EBT card.
Hopefully, the FNS Food Assistance online purchasing pilot will expand to additional states in the future.
If you have called 1-888-328-2656 and they have told you that your address is not correct, your address will need to be updated.
Normally, this would be done through your county office but because of COVID-19 and the increased calls to county offices, please call 1-800-536-5298.
This is a secured line, so if you leave a voicemail, please leave your name, SSN, CBMS Case # and updated address to help your information getting updated faster.
An EBT card getting mailed to you can take 7-10 days to reach you.
If you do not already receive the maximum benefit for your eligible household members, you will receive extra Food Assistance benefits.
If you are already receiving Food Assistance, you will continue to receive benefits and may be automatically re-enrolled in the program without extra work.
If you were automatically re-enrolled, you will receive a letter from us telling you about the next steps.
You can track your benefit amount on the MyCOBenefits app or on your PEAK account.
Yes, you can let someone else use your card to buy food for you. But be careful. Once you tell someone your PIN and give them your card, they could use ALL of your benefits. Stolen benefits will NOT be replaced. As an additional security step, you can change your PIN after each shopping trip.
A lot of county offices are closed to the public due to the public health crisis.
County offices that are closed to the public are open remotely and will still process applications and changes.
There may be longer wait and hold times over the phone due to the number of calls the counties are receiving.
County websites may provide email addresses to get in touch with someone in your county office to answer your questions or report changes.
You may be able to answer a lot of your questions and report changes by logging into your PEAK account or the MyCOBenefits mobile app.
You can also submit changes in writing at the dropbox for your county office.
If you have not already, you need to file your 2018 and/or 2019 taxes.
TEFAP provides a monthly food package to eligible households and is available in every county in Colorado.
Please call 2-1-1 or visit www.211colorado.org to find the nearest distribution site or the Food Resource Hotline at 855-855-4626.
No. You will self-declare how you are eligible to receive TEFAP.
See the current requirements for eligibility here.
You will be asked to provide your name, address, number of people in your household, and how you are eligible.
You may also be asked to provide some form of ID.
Most distribution sites are food pantries that offer additional food items and other resources.
CSFP provides a monthly food package to adults that are 60 years of age or older and meet income guidelines. CSFP is offered in every county in Colorado.
Please call 211 or visit www.211colorado.org to find the nearest distribution site.
No. You will self-declare how you are eligible to receive CSFP.
You will need to complete a CSFP application and provide some form of ID.
Once you are approved (which will happen at the time of application in most cases), you are certified for one year.
You can recertify each year by simply indicating your interest in continuing participation in the program and self-declaring that you qualify.
Many TEFAP sites have drive-thru distribution so there is no 1:1 contact.
Some CSFP agencies are providing home delivery services or distributing food in other ways which keep everyone safe.
Absolutely. Many of the distribution sites provide both CSFP and TEFAP.
If you qualify for CSFP, you are automatically qualified to receive TEFAP.