Trump Signs Covid-19 Aid Bill Averting Government Shutdown

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President Trump outside the White House earlier this month.

Photo: Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

WASHINGTON—President Trump signed a sweeping pandemic-aid bill on Sunday night, ending a standoff with Congress and paving the way for millions of Americans to get economic relief as the coronavirus pandemic surges across the country.

Mr. Trump objected to the legislation last week, after it had already passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, saying that lawmakers needed to increase the size of direct payments to Americans to $2,000, up from $600 per adult and per child for individuals with adjusted gross incomes under $75,000.

He signed the legislation under pressure from lawmakers of both parties.

The massive year-end package also includes a $1.4 trillion bill to continue government funding into September.

The president’s decision to sign the bill caps days of uncertainty and confusion in Washington as the coronavirus pandemic continued to rage in the U.S., with experts raising concerns about increasing hospitalizations in many parts of the country. More than 332,000 people have died in the U.S. as a result of the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Trump is expected to continue to push for increasing direct payments to $2,000.

Democrats supported Mr. Trump’s calls to increase the payments. The House attempted to pass a bill by unanimous consent on Thursday, and when that failed, set up a vote for Monday on the legislation. It’s unclear whether the Senate will take up the measure. The bill raising the amount of the checks is contingent on the pandemic-aid bill being signed by the president.

Two pandemic-related unemployment assistance programs lapsed over the weekend and will restart now that Mr. Trump has signed the bill, but payments are likely to be delayed according to experts. The first program provided unemployment benefits for gig and contract workers and others who don’t generally qualify for jobless aid. The second provided up to 13 weeks of additional payments to individuals who exhausted other programs that pay benefits, such as regular state unemployment benefits.

In early December, roughly 14 million people were receiving benefits through those pandemic-relief programs, according to the Labor Department, representing nearly three-quarters of those currently receiving jobless benefits.

The bill would also extend the maximum number of weeks a person can claim unemployment benefits to 50 weeks. It would provide an additional $100-a-week subsidy for workers who have both wage and self-employment income but whose basic unemployment benefits don’t take into account their self-employment income.

It would also give unemployed Americans a supplemental benefit of up to $300 a week, a cut from the previous $600 a week that was approved in April, and ended in the summer.

The legislation would extend until the end of January 2021 a federal eviction prohibition and provide $25 billion of assistance to tenants in arrears on their rent. It also contains billions of dollars to help airlines, small businesses, entertainment venues and farms, as well as money to help Americans get vaccinated from the virus.

The president raised objections to the level of spending in the $1.4 trillion bill attached to keep the government funded through next September, singling out foreign aid money. The 5,593-page year-end package includes money for government programs and foreign aid.

The legislation allocates $55.5 billion for discretionary funding in overseas operations, including fighting terrorism, which is $820 million more than the previous year, and $10.8 billion above the president’s request.

About $26.5 billion will go to foreign countries for development assistance, global health programs and humanitarian assistance. That amount is $527 million above what was allocated in the previous year. Much of this funding fulfills bilateral commitments the U.S. has with foreign nations.

The president’s decision comes as lawmakers are also grappling with Mr. Trump’s veto of the separate $740.5 billion defense-policy bill, which the president criticized because of provisions related to the removal of Confederate base names and troop levels abroad, as well as the legislation’s lack of language revoking internet platforms’ broad immunity for the content they publish from users on their sites.

The House on Monday plans to vote to override Mr. Trump’s veto of the defense-policy legislation. Should the House pass the override, as expected, the Senate plans to return on Tuesday to cast its votes on the matter, which could become the first time Congress has overridden one of Mr. Trump’s vetoes.

“This is a great bill, this goes after China, Russia, does a lot to shore up our cyber defenses, which as we’ve seen are extremely vulnerable,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R., Ill.) said on CNN on Sunday. “To sustain the president’s veto after you’ve voted for this bill, I just don’t understand.”

Write to Natalie Andrews at Natalie.Andrews@wsj.com and Andrew Restuccia at Andrew.Restuccia@wsj.com

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