U.S. Congress passes nearly $900 bln COVID-19 aid bill, awaits Trump approval

WASHINGTON, Dec 22 (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed a stopgap measure to fund U.S. agencies for another week after Congress passed a $892 billion COVID-19 aid package overnight that aims to shore up the nation’s pandemic response and bolster the battered economy.

The coronavirus package is tied to general federal government funding to avert a government shutdown – together worth about $2.3 trillion in spending for the rest of the fiscal year – and is now awaiting Trump’s approval to become law.

In the meantime, U.S. lawmakers moved to fund federal agencies through Dec. 28 to prevent a lapse in government operations. Trump signed the stopgap funding bill into law on Tuesday, the White House said.

The COVID-19 provisions aim to throw a lifeline to the U.S. economy after months of inaction as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues to swell nationwide, with more than 214,000 people infected every day. So far, more than 317,000 Americans have died.

The wide-ranging bill includes $600 payments to most Americans and additional payments to the millions of people thrown out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, just as a earlier benefits expire on Saturday.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has said COVID-aid related checks could be sent to people as soon as next week, praised the deal in statement on Tuesday.

“We are fully committed to ensuring that hardworking Americans get this vital support as quickly as possible and to further strengthening our economic recovery,” Mnuchin said. (Editing by Susan Heavey and Steve Orlofsky)