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 (Paycheck Protection Programs), 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.
The turnaround came after a day marked by calls from all sides of the political spectrum for action to avert an economic and social disaster, especially for America’s vulnerable populations.
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, which was first passed by Congress on December 21, extends those benefits as well as others set to expire in the days ahead.
But for days, Trump had refused to put his signature on it, calling the bill a “disgrace” and catching both Democrats and Republicans off guard with his complaints, which came after months of negotiations.
Influential Republican senator Mitt Romney said he was “relieved” at the signing. “Help is now on the way to workers, families, and small businesses across the country who are desperately in need,” he tweeted. Many millions of people are losing their extended unemployment benefits,” he said on ABC.
“They’re going to be evicted from their apartments because the eviction moratorium is ending. Sanders said increased direct payments could be approved in the coming days.
Democrats in Congress sought Thursday to approve a measure to increase the direct payments in line with what Trump wants, but Republicans blocked it.
It was seen largely as a theatrical move with little hope of passage designed to expose the rift between Republicans and the outgoing president.
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