Trump signs £1.78 trillion stimulus package as US coronavirus cases surge

Donald Trump signs the coronavirus stimulus relief package Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

US President Donald Trump has signed a 2.2 trillion dollar (£1.78 trillion) rescue package for American workers left reeling by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Trump signed the bill in an Oval Office ceremony surrounded by Republican members of Congress and officials from his administration shortly after the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives approved the massive spending package.

Under the plan, many single Americans would receive 1,200 dollars (£963), married couples would get 2,400 dollars (£1,926) and parents would see 500 dollars (£401) for each child.

The signing came the after the US government reported nearly 3.3 million new weekly unemployment claims. The US death toll has surpassed 1,200 from Covid-19.

Mr Trump said: “This will deliver urgently needed relief.”

The House of Representatives gave near-unanimous approval by voice vote after an impassioned session conducted along the social distancing guidelines imposed by the crisis. Many members of Congress rushed to Washington to participate but dozens of others remained safely in their home districts.

The Senate passed the bill unanimously late on Wednesday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “The American people deserve a government-wide, visionary, evidence-based response to address these threats to their lives and their livelihood and they need it now.”

Large and small businesses will get loans, grants and tax breaks. It will send unprecedented billions to states and local governments, and the nation’s overwhelmed health care system.

A surge in infections has taken the US total over 92,000 – the highest in the world – amid warnings that the pandemic is accelerating in cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit.

Republican whip Liz Cheney said: “This pathogen does not recognise party lines, and no partisan solution will defeat it. Neither will the government acting alone.

“This is not a time for cynicism or invective or second-guessing. This is a time to remember that we are citizens of the greatest nation on Earth, that we have overcome every challenge we have faced, and we will overcome this one.”

The run-up to the vote contained an element of drama because libertarian Republican Thomas Massie announced plans to seek a vote. The leaders of both parties united to prevent that because it would have forced members of Congress back to the capital or blemished their voting records if they stayed at home.

Instead, they made sure enough members of Congress would attend the session to block Mr Massie’s move under the rules, and some representatives took the unprecedented step of sitting in the visitors galleries to establish the necessary quorum.

The House promptly adjourned for a weeks-long recess but will return later in the spring to consider further legislation.