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Photo: Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Monday a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits through September, providing about $3.5 billion of assistance to people affected by food insecurity.

Why it matters: The pandemic has spurred an uptick in food stamp spending. As part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, the increase in benefits will provide about $28 more per person per month or more than $100 more per month for a household of four.

What they're saying: "We cannot sit by and watch food insecurity grow in the United States," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

  • "The American Rescue Plan brings help to those hurting the most due to the pandemic. It increases SNAP benefits so households can afford to put food on the table.
  • "It invests in working people and small towns and small businesses to get the economy back on track. And it makes the most meaningful investments in generations to reduce poverty," Vilsack added.

The big picture: Those struggling with food insecurity often have higher rates of underlying health conditions, which can "increase the risk of people developing severe COVID-19 symptoms," according to a United Nations report.

  • During the first few months of the pandemic, Black households with children experienced food insecurity at nearly two times the rate of white households with children, per a report from Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research.
  • The increase in benefits paints a sharp contrast to the Trump administration's attempt to block states from giving emergency food stamps to low-income Americans during the pandemic last year.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First fatality confirmed in downtown Austin mass shooting

Police barricades near the scene of a shooting in Austin, Texas, on Saturday. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

A 25-year-old man died Sunday of injuries sustained in a mass shooting that wounded 13 other people in downtown Austin, Texas, the previous day, police confirmed.

Driving the news: Austin police named the victim as Douglas John Kantor, as they continued to search for one of two suspects. One suspect was taken into custody on Saturday following the shooting on 6th Street, a popular area with bars and restaurants.

Pelosi demands Barr and Sessions testify on data subpoenas

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during an event San Francisco, California, on Friday. Photo: Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told CNN Sunday that former Attorneys General William Barr and Jeff Sessions should testify before Congress on reports that the Trump-era Department of Justice seized Democrats' and journalists' data records.

Driving the news: DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced Friday an internal investigation into the matter, and Pelosi expressed disbelief to CNN's Dana Bash at assertions that neither Barr nor Sessions knew of probes into lawmakers.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Netanyahu is out as new Israeli government survives confidence vote

Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images

Israel has a new prime minister for the first time since 2009 after a power-sharing government led by Naftali Bennett survived a confidence vote on Sunday. Bennett was sworn in as prime minister.

Why it matters: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister and the man around whom Israeli politics have revolved for a decade, will now become opposition leader. Bennett, a right-wing former Netanyahu protege, will lead the most ideologically diverse government in Israeli history.