US President Donald Trump finally signed into law a US$2.3 trillion pandemic unemployment assistance and spending package that will benefit millions of Americans who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus crisis.

Trump, who will be leaving office on January 20 when President-elect Joe Biden takes oath, back down from his earlier threat to block the Bill. The US Congress approved the Bill last week, and put intense pressure on Trump as millions of Americans suffer from the unprecedented effects of coronavirus.

Trump was out of public view on Sunday as he golfed at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, even as the potential government shutdown loomed. He demanded that Congress change the Bill to increase the size of stimulus checks for struggling Americans from $600 to $2000.

It was not immediately clear what made the president change his mind after he promised a chaotic transition to Biden’s term.

US pandemic unemployment assistance
US President Donald Trump was seen playing golf on Sunday amid looming government shutdown. (Reuters)

White House officials are also tight-lipped about Trump’s thinking but a Reuters source said some advisers had urged Trump to relent because there was no point refusing to sign the pandemic unemployment assistance Bill. Republic lawmakers also refused to back Trump’s call for changes.

Hours earlier, Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania told Fox News Sunday Trump wants “to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire”.

On Sunday evening, Trump tweeted, “Good news on Covid Relief Bill. Information to follow.”

Trump signaled that he signed the bill only after securing a commitment for the Senate to consider the increase of stimulus checks.

While many lawmakers were on board with the higher payments, several economists also pointed out that the drafted pandemic assistance should be immediately distributed as Americans need the support right now.

The package includes $1.4 trillion in spending to fund government agencies.

An estimated 12 million people will now receive benefits for another 11 weeks. All those collecting jobless payments will receive a $300 weekly federal boost through mid-March.

The relief package also extends a moratorium on evictions that was due to expire on Dec 31, refreshes support for small business payrolls, provides funding to help schools re-open and aid for the transport industry and vaccine distribution. 

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

Majority of the Americans lived through a bitter holiday season as the coronavirus cases continue to surge and restrictions remain in place.

As of this writing, the US has a total of 19.2 million cases and 333,000 deaths.


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