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Trump signs COVID relief bill, averts government shutdown

December 28, 2020

US President Donald Trump has signed the pandemic relief and government-funding measure, averting government shutdown. He had earlier called the Congress-approved bill a "disgrace."

US President Donald Trump
President Trump did not immediately indicate why he decided to sign the bill nowImage: Tom Brenner/REUTERS

US President Donald Trump on Sunday signed into law a massive $2.3 trillion (€1.88 trillion) pandemic aid and spending package, restoring unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and averting a partial federal government shutdown.

The president announced the signing in a statement Sunday night. "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.

Trump, who leaves office on January 20 after losing November's election, backed down from his threat to block the bill, which was approved by Congress last week, after he came under intense pressure from lawmakers on both sides.

Trump had earlier called the bill a "disgrace," demanding that various spending provisions, including some foreign aid, be ripped from the budget. He had also insisted that the direct stimulus payments to households be increased from the $600 in the bill to $2,000.

The president did not immediately indicate why he decided to sign now. Hours before he did, he said on Twitter to expect "good news." 

Demand for more aid

Democrats are on board with the $2,000 payments but many Republicans have opposed it in the past. Many economists agree the financial aid in the bill should be higher to get the economy moving again but say that immediate support for Americans hit by coronavirus lockdowns is still urgently needed.

Unemployment benefits being paid out to about 14 million people through pandemic programs lapsed on Saturday but will be restarted now that Trump has signed the bill.

The package includes $1.4 trillion in spending to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as money for cash-starved transit systems and an increase in food stamp benefits. The relief bill would also provide funding for US states to distribute vaccines, replenish a loan program for small businesses and provide relief funds for airlines.

If Trump had not signed the legislation, then a partial government shutdown would have begun on Tuesday that would have put millions of government workers' incomes at risk.

Democrats are promising more aid to come once President-elect Joe Biden takes office, but Republicans are signaling a wait-and-see approach.

sri/shs (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)