Trump, Under Pressure, Signs $900 Bn COVID Relief Bill

(AFP) – After delaying for nearly a week and under pressure from all sides, US President Donald Trump finally signed a massive $900 billion stimulus bill Sunday, in a long-sought boost for millions of Americans and businesses battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

The package “providing coronavirus emergency response and relief” is part of a larger spending bill that, with Trump’s signature, will avoid a government shutdown on Tuesday.

“I am signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more,” the president said in a statement from his Christmas vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

For days, Trump refused to put his signature on the relief package approved overwhelmingly by Congress following months of negotiation, calling it a “disgrace.”

Two federal unemployment benefit programs approved in March as part of an initial COVID-19 relief plan expired at midnight on Saturday, cutting off an estimated 12 million Americans, according to The Century Foundation think tank.

The relief package, passed by Congress on December 21, would extend those benefits as well as others set to expire in the days ahead.

But in his statement, Trump continued to push for the $600 direct payments to US taxpayers spelled out in the bill to be more than tripled, and argued the legislation included too much excess spending on unrelated programs.

\He has not said why he waited until the bill was already approved to make his views known.

President-elect Joe Biden, due to be sworn in January 20 after beating Trump in November’s election, had warned of “devastating consequences” on Saturday if the president continued his refusal.