Trump signs COVID-19 relief bill, averts U.S. government shutdown

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday signed into law a $2.3 trillion US COVID-19 aid and government-funding bill, restoring unemployment benefits to millions in the United States and averting a partial federal government shutdown.

Trump announced the signing in a statement Sunday night. Trump, who leaves office on Jan. 20 after losing November’s election to Democratic rival Joe Biden, 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.

The massive bill includes $900 billion US in pandemic relief that will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals. It also includes $1.4 trillion US 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 Republican president, who golfed on Sunday and remained out of public view even as the potential government shutdown loomed, had demanded that Congress change the bill to increase the size of stimulus checks for struggling people in the country to $2,000 US from $600 US.

It was not immediately clear why Trump changed his mind as his resistance to the massive legislative package promised a chaotic final stretch of his presidency.

White House officials have been tight-lipped about Trump’s thinking, but a source familiar with the situation told Reuters that some advisers had urged him to relent because they did not see the point of refusing.

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

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.

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