Trump signs latest stopgap funding bill

U.S. President Donald Trump responds to a question from a reporter after a medal ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S.

US President Donald Trump has signed the latest stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown and provide lawmakers more time to vote on a newly reached Covid-19 stimulus deal, as well as an accompanying $1.4 trillion government funding bill.

In an announcement on Monday, the White House announced that Trump signed the bill, which will avert the government shutdown for the next 24 hours, after the House and Senate each passed the measure on Sunday evening, The Hill news website reported.

Congress is expected to take up the stimulus package and government funding bill on Monday morning.

In an statement on Sunday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that congressional negotiators had finalised a deal that would link a $1.4 trillion government funding bill to roughly $900 billion in further coronavirus relief, a significant bipartisan breakthrough after months of deadlock.

The $900 billion relief plan under negotiation was set to include another round of direct payments for individuals, federal unemployment benefits, and more funding for Paycheck Protection Program to support small businesses.

The last stopgap funding bill was signed on December 18, which averted a government shutdown until Sunday.

It came almost a week after Trump had signed a one-week stopgap funding bill to keep the federal government open through December 18.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had recently said that they want to attach a long-awaited Covid-19 relief legislation to an omnibus funding bill, which will keep the government open while providing targeted relief to households and businesses.

Among the unresolved issues in the Covid-19 relief negotiations are a Republican push to shut down the Treasury Department’s and Federal Reserve’s credit lending facilities; the scope of the direct checks; and a Democratic effort to include funding for state and local emergencies to be administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to The Hill, a U.S. political website.

Economists, as well as Federal Reserve officials, have repeatedly argued that more fiscal relief is needed to sustain the economic recovery, warning of dire consequences if further fiscal support is not provided in time.

As of Monday morning, the virus, which originated in China a year ago, has infected a total of 17,840,000 Americans and killed 317,667 others, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The two tallies are the highest in the world, making the US the hardest-hit country by the pandemic.

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