Trump finally backs down, signs $900 billion coronavirus aid package

Washington, Dec 27 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump Sunday signed into law a new stimulus package for the United States economy along with an annual spending bill after refusing to do so for several days that had threatened a possible government shutdown.

The refusal to sign earlier the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill and a $1.4 trillion government funding bill since Congress approved it last week already caused a lapse in two critical unemployment programs and a delay in benefits for millions of unemployed people.

Backtracking from resisting the package and demanding changes, the outgoing president signed it on Sunday afternoon at his residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, where he is on vacation, the White House confirmed.

“As president of the United States it is my responsibility to protect the people of our country from the economic devastation and hardship that was caused by the China virus,” he said in a statement.

“I will sign the Omnibus and covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed.”

The rescue package includes direct payments of up to $600 for all Americans with annual incomes below $75,000, jobless benefits of $300 per week, some $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans, $25 billion in rental assistance, and $82 billion for schools and colleges.

It also included billions of dollars for states to help them with the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine in the US, which is still grappling to control the outbreak of the virus that has claimed more than 341,000 American lives and infected 19.5 million people in the country.

Last week, after Congress approved the plan, Trump called for cutting out foreign aid and demanded direct payments to be more than tripled to $2,000 per individual. It came after his administration had negotiated the amount of $600.

Trump said the Senate, controlled by the Republicans, “will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000.”

“On Monday, the House will vote to increase payments to individuals from $600 to $2,000. Therefore, a family of four would receive $5,200,” Trump said.

He said Congress had promised to review a section, “which so unfairly benefits Big Tech at the expense of the American people.”

“Much more money is coming. I will never give up my fight for the American people!”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a statement, thanked Trump for signing the bill. But he did not mention any possibility of a vote to make any changes.

Trump also said he would send back to Congress a “redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request,” insisting that those funds should be removed from the bill.

But it is not clear that lawmakers will modify the package or the spending bill that would fund the government through September.

His earlier refusal to sign the package left millions of Americans without unemployment support. It is likely to be renewed now when the new legislation comes into effect.

Two programs that provided unemployment aid to between 10-14 million Americans expired on Saturday midnight.

Trump’s refusal drew criticism from various members of his party. Had it lasted until Jan.1, it would have led to the end of a national veto on evictions, affecting some 30 million Americans.

Several Republicans criticized Trump, who heads the GOP, for the refusal.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey told Fox News that Trump would be remembered for “chaos, misery and erratic behavior,” adding that “You don’t get everything you want, even if you’re president of the United States.” EFE-EPA

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