US government delivers nearly £405bn more in virus aid

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President Donald Trump will be holding a signing ceremony on Friday for the US government’s new 500 billion dollar (£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 dollars (£202.5 billion) to replenish a fund to help small and medium-size businesses with payroll, rent and other expenses.

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

There’s also 60 billion dollars (£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.

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

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

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

Thursday’s measure brings total rescue funding to 2.4 trillion dollars (£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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