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PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS SIGNED THE LARGEST-ever US financial stimulus package, worth $2tn (£1.7tn), as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
The House of Representatives passed the cross-party bill two days after the Senate debated its provisions.
On Wednesday the number of Americans filing for unemployment surged to a record high of 3.3 million people.
The US has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country, with more than 100,000 positive tests.
No Democratic lawmakers were invited to the historic signing ceremony, which was held at the White House, though the president thanked both parties “for coming together, setting aside their differences and putting America first”.
Mr Trump said the package was “twice as large” as any prior relief bill.
“This will deliver urgently needed relief to our nation’s families, workers and businesses,” he said.
Just before signing the act into law, Mr Trump invoked the Defence Production Act (DPA), which gives the president the power to force private industries to create items required for national defence.
Mr Trump said the order will compel General Motors (GM) to manufacture much-needed medical ventilators for the federal government.
Earlier in the day, Mr Trump tweeted that GM had promised to “give us 40,000 much needed Ventilators, ‘very quickly’.
Media captionCoronavirus: Lack of medical supplies ‘a national shame’
“Now they are saying it will only be 6,000, in late April, and they want top dollar,” he said, threatening to invoke the DPA.
During the bill signing, the president said that “tremendous [medical] supplies” would be coming soon, adding: “We’ve had great results on just about everything we’re talking about.”
Earlier on Friday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced eight temporary hospitals to meet an expected surge in cases.
Coronavirus updates from around the world
He said 519 people had died in the state – the worst-hit in the US – and there were 44,635 confirmed cases.
What happened in Congress?
Democrats and Republicans in the Democratic-led House approved the stimulus package by voice vote on Friday following a three-hour debate.
“Our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the worst pandemic in over 100 years,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
Members of the House had been ready to conduct the vote at their homes but were forced to return to Washington at the last minute after a Republican representative from Kentucky demanded a quorum of half the chamber be present.
Thomas Massie – who objected to the stimulus package saying it contained too much spending – also sought to delay proceedings by demanding a formal recorded vote, as opposed to a voice vote, but was overruled.
Mr Trump vented his fury at Mr Massie on Twitter, calling him a “third-rate grandstander” and demanding he be thrown out of the Republican party. BBC
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