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United States President, Donald Trump has on Sunday signed a $900 billion (N349.2 trillion) COVID-19 relief package ending days of arguments over his refusal to accept the deal that will deliver cash to businesses and individuals and avert a federal government shutdown.
The bill includes a $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and contains other priorities such as an increase in food stamp benefits.
“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.
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.
Reacting to the signing, Influential Republican senator Mitt Romney said he was relieved. “Help is now on the way to workers, families, and small businesses across the country who are desperately in need,” he tweeted.