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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 5 hours ago - World

Death toll mounts as fighting between Israel and Hamas intensifies

Palestinian Muslims exchange wishes for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, near a razed building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on May 13. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

At least 109 Palestinians and seven people in Israel have been killed since recent fighting between Israel's military and Hamas began Monday.

The big picture: Israel began massing troops on its border with Gaza on Thursday, launching attacks from the air and ground as Hamas continued to fire rockets into Israel.

By the numbers: Where the earmarks are wanted

Expand chart
Data: House Committee on Appropriations; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is being targeted for the largest collective earmark request in the country, according to a detailed breakdown of overall requests released by the House Appropriations Committee.

Why it matters: House appropriators are trying to balance bipartisan momentum for infrastructure investment with "pork-barrel" spending's checkered political history. The data dump is an effort to provide transparency for what are now termed "community project funding" requests.

Democrats open to user fees for infrastructure deal

President Biden sits Thursday with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) as they discuss his $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal. Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some Senate Democrats are open to paying for a compromise infrastructure package by imposing user fees, including increasing the gas tax and raising money from electric car drivers through a vehicle-miles-traveled charge.

Why it matters: By inching toward the Republican position on pay-fors, some Democrats are bucking President Biden's push to offset his proposed $2.3 trillion plan by focusing only on raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.