By Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell
PALM BEACH, Fla./WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday signed into law a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package, restoring unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and averting a federal government shutdown.
The President had demanded that Congress change the bill to increase the size of stimulus checks for struggling Americans to $2,000 from $600 and also cut some other spending.
After signing the bill, Trump said he was signing the bill with “a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed.”
“Much more money is coming,” he insisted in a statement.
Many economists agree the financial aid in the bill should be higher to get the economy moving again but say that immediate support for Americans hit by coronavirus lockdowns is still urgently needed.
Unemployment benefits being paid out to about 14 million people through pandemic programs lapsed on Saturday, but will be restarted now that Trump has signed the bill.
The package includes $1.4 trillion in spending to fund government agencies. If Trump had not signed the legislation, then a partial government shutdown would have begun on Tuesday that would have put millions of government workers’ incomes at risk.
Americans are living through a bitter holiday season amid a pandemic that has killed nearly 330,000 people in the United States, with a daily death toll now repeatedly well over 3,000 people, the highest since the pandemic began.
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.
Trump noted that the House of Representatives planned to vote on Monday to increase coronavirus relief checks to individuals from $600 to $2,000, and said the Senate “will start the process” to approve higher payments.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Susan Cornwell; additional reporting by Aram Roston and Matt Spetalnick; Writing by Matt Spetalnick and Alistair Bell. Editing by Daniel Wallis and Diane Craft)