US reaches long awaited deal for coronavirus aid

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After months of wrangling, US lawmakers have agreed to a roughly $900bn package of pandemic aid, including money for businesses and unemployment programmes.

The money is set to accompany a bigger $1.4tn spending bill to fund government operations over the next nine months.

It comes as many Covid-19 economic relief programmes were set to expire at the end of the month.

About 12 million Americans were at risk of losing access to unemployment benefits.

The House of Representatives and the Senate are expected to vote on the package on Monday. It will then need to be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The new package will include $600 direct stimulus payments to most Americans, and boost unemployment payments by $300 per week. It is also set to include more than $300bn in support for businesses, and money for vaccine distribution, schools and renters facing eviction.

The deal was announced on Sunday by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. “We can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time: More help is on the way,” he said.

The package, he added, contained “targeted policies to help struggling Americans who have already waited too long.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the package “delivers urgently needed funds to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people as the virus accelerates”.