Trump signs largest ever bailout package in US history for coronavirus relief

$2 trillion package will help people affected by coronavirus

President Donald Trump talks to reporters before signing the coronavirus stimulus relief package in the Oval Office at the White House, Friday, March 27, 2020, in Washington, as White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarty, R-Calif., and Vice President Mike Pence look on. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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President Donald Trump signed the largest stimulus package in US history on Friday, a $2 trillion bill intended to rescue the coronavirus-battered economy.

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

“We’re going to keep our small businesses strong and our big businesses strong.”

The hard-won plan will provide a massive injection of loans, tax breaks and direct payments to large corporations, small businesses and individuals whose revenue and income have plummeted under “social distancing” restrictions meant to slow the virus’ spread.

The US has become the worldwide epicenter of the pandemic, with more than 97,000 people infected, surpassing China.

On Friday evening, Mr Trump tweeted: "We are marshalling the full power of government and society to achieve victory over the virus.

"Together, we will endure, we will prevail, and we will WIN!"

Earlier in the day, stocks finished in the red following a three-day rally.

Traders cut positions ahead of the weekend despite the passage of the stimulus bill.

The S&P 500 fell 3.4 per cent while the Dow dropped 4.1 per cent.

Mr Trump had urged Congress to quickly finalise the package, saying earlier that it would “deliver much-needed financial assistance to hardworking families and small businesses.”

The prospect of a long-term blow to the economy has prompted Mr Trump to consider easing federal guidelines, despite warnings from governors, public health experts and some members of his own administration they should stay in place for longer.

Mr Trump has repeatedly spoken of “re-opening” the country by Easter and on Thursday he told governors he would rank different areas of the country based on risk level in order to allow states to eventually relax quarantine and social distancing measures.

The package provides roughly $500 billion in loans and other assistance for major companies, including $62 billion for the airline sector, as well as cities and states struggling with virus-related financial burdens.

It includes $350 billion in aid for small businesses and offers $1,200 direct payments to middle- and low-income American adults, plus $500 for each child.

Hospitals will receive $117 billion in assistance, as many become overwhelmed with virus patients.

Unemployment insurance would also grow to $600 per week, on top of existing state benefits.

The size of the package far surpasses the $800 billion measure signed by former President Barack Obama following the 2008 financial crisis. Combined with Federal Reserve measures, it would provide around $6 trillion in stimulus to the economy, according to chief White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

But the plan might not be enough to stave off an economic recession or another spike in unemployment.

Even before it passed, leaders in Congress said another round of stimulus would almost surely be needed.

“This is not going to be the last bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said Wednesday.

The package came together following several days of marathon talks between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer.

The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday with an overwhelming 96-0 vote.

The House passed it by voice vote on Friday.

“This is a proud moment for our country,” Mr McConnell said at the White House, where he and several other GOP leaders joined Mr Trump. No Democrats were present.

Democrats had demanded transparency measures on the $500 billion corporate assistance fund and they ultimately won language requiring the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve to publish who receives loans every seven days.