US government delivers nearly £405 billion more in virus aid

Donald Trump, U.S., Budget, Russ Vought, US aid
U.S. President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump will be holding a signing ceremony on Friday for the US government’s new $500 billion (£405 billion) coronavirus relief bill.

The package, which was passed on Thursday, will bring relief to employers and hospitals buckling under the strain of a pandemic that has claimed almost 50,000 American lives and one in six US jobs.

Anchoring the bill is $250 billion (£202.5 billion) to replenish a fund to help small and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses.

The payroll program provides forgivable loans so businesses can continue paying workers while forced to stay closed for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

It also contains $100 billion (£81 billion) for hospitals and a nationwide testing program, along with $60 billion (£48.6 billion) set-aside for small banks that focus on development in urban neighbourhoods and rural areas ignored by many lenders.

There’s also $60 billion (£48.6 billion) for small-business loans and grants delivered through the Small Business Administration’s existing disaster aid program.

Mr Trump celebrated the bill’s passage at his daily White House briefing on Thursday.

“At a time when many Americans are enduring significant economic challenges, this bill will help small businesses to keep millions of workers on the payroll,” he said.

Passage of more coronavirus relief is likely in the weeks ahead.

Supporters are already warning that the business-backed Payroll Protection Program will exhaust the new $250 billion (£202.5 billion) almost immediately.

Launched just weeks ago, the program quickly reached its lending limit after approving nearly 1.7 million loans.

Thursday’s measure brings total rescue funding to $2.4 trillion (£1.9 trillion), according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Each day brings new evidence of the economic calamity wrought by the virus.

Thursday morning the government reported that 4.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week as layoffs sweep the economy.

Over the last five weeks, roughly 26 million people have filed for jobless aid.

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