US President Donald Trump has signed a US$900 billion (NZ$1.26 trillion) pandemic relief package, ending days of drama over his refusal to accept the bipartisan deal that will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and avert a federal government shutdown.
The massive bill includes US$1.4 trillion (NZ$1.9 trillion) to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as money for cash-starved transit systems and an increase in food stamp benefits.
The signing, at his private club in Florida, came after a day of vocal criticism from Republicans and Democrats over his objections to the bipartisan agreement, which passed the House and Senate by large margins with lawmakers believing they had Trump’s support. His eleventh-hour demands, including a push for larger relief checks and scaled-back spending, had blindsided members of both parties. His subsequent foot-dragging resulted in a lapse in unemployment benefits for millions struggling to make ends meet and threatened a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic.
Signing the bill into law prevents another crisis of Trump’s own creation and ends a standoff with his own party during the final days of his administration.