Students sit at socially-distanced intervals in the lunch room at Jacob’s Well Elementary School in Wimberley on Sept. 4, 2020.

Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar for the Texas Tribune

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Texas families who relied on the Pandemic EBT card, which previously provided a one-time benefit of $285 for students receiving free and reduced-price meals, can apply for another round of the food aid for the 2021-22 school year.

The federal benefit helps provide for the approximately 3.7 million eligible, low-income children in Texas who lost access to free and reduced-cost meals when schools first shut down during the pandemic. This time, the benefit could provide up to $1,200 per student depending on the number of days most students at their school received remote instruction during the past school year.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission would allocate more than $2.5 billion in food benefits to all eligible families, an increase from the $1 billion in food benefits distributed last year.

“Thank you to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approving this second round of pandemic food benefits for Texas families,” Abbott said in a statement. “These additional benefits will continue to help Texans provide food for their families.”

Families who received the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, before 2021 will automatically receive benefits on their P-EBT card by May 28. Those who started relying on SNAP after May 2021, and have children born before Aug. 1, 2014 will need to apply.

School districts will notify eligible families with the application by June 2, and applications will remain open until Aug. 13.

Last year, the deadline for the food aid was extended as many eligible families hadn’t applied. By late July, more than 20% of the eligible Texas school children had not signed up for the program, partially because their families were uncertain about their eligibility.

“These additional food benefits are a lifeline and will go a long way to help many Texas families put nutritious food on the table,” said Cecile Erwin Young, executive commissioner for HHS, in a written statement.

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