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Covid-19: Trump signs relief and spending package into law

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President Donald Trump signs a document in the Oval Office

US President Donald Trump has signed into law a coronavirus relief and spending package bill, averting a partial government shutdown.

Mr Trump had initially refused to sign the bill, saying he wanted to give people bigger one-off payments.

The delay meant that millions of Americans temporarily lost unemployment benefits.

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The relief package worth $900bn (£665bn) was approved by Congress after months of negotiation.

It is part of a $2.3tn spending package that includes $1.4tn for normal federal government spending.

Had Mr Trump not signed the bill into law by midnight on Monday, a partial government shutdown would have begun unless legislators passed a stopgap bill.

About 14 million Americans faced a lapse in unemployment benefit payments and new stimulus cheques. Unemployment benefits will now be restored.

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It was not immediately clear why Mr Trump – who is in Florida – finally decided to sign the bill into law. He had been under growing pressure from both sides of Congress.

Mr Trump said he was signing the bill with “a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed”.

He leaves office on 20 January after losing November’s election to Mr Biden, although he has refused to admit defeat.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney said he was “relieved” that the legislation had at last become law.

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Earlier, Republican Senator Pat Toomey said the president risked being remembered for “chaos, misery and erratic behaviour”.

US President-elect Joe Biden had warned of “devastating consequences” if Mr Trump continued to delay signing.

In a strongly worded statement published on the transition website on Saturday, Mr Biden described Mr Trump’s refusal to sign the bill as an “abdication of responsibility”.

“It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority,” Mr Biden said.

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