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6 Mar, 2020 15:23

'People spend money and stay home now, I LIKE that': Trump finds coronavirus silver lining as he signs $8.3bn aid bill

'People spend money and stay home now, I LIKE that': Trump finds coronavirus silver lining as he signs $8.3bn aid bill

US President Donald Trump has authorized $8.3 billion in emergency spending to fight the coronavirus epidemic after admitting he "liked" that the virus was forcing Americans to stay home and spend their money in the US.

The emergency aid bill Trump signed on Friday dispatched more than three times the $2.5 billion he had originally requested last month from Congress to fight the epidemic. The money will be spent on pharmaceutical research, containment and control efforts, foreign and domestic, and loans to businesses adversely affected by the crisis.

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While Trump had originally planned to fly to the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the signing, he canceled the trip, telling reporters he didn't want to get in the way of the urgent response to the outbreak that has so far killed 14 Americans and sickened 233.

The president remained optimistic, however, insisting he'd found a silver lining to the epidemic during a Thursday town hall with Fox News. "People are now staying in the United States, spending their money in the US, and I like that," he said. "You know, I've been after that for a long time."

"I've been saying, let's stay in the US, spend your money here, and they're doing that. They're sort of enforced doing that. It's gonna all work out. Everybody has to be calm."

Even the alarming downward plunge of the stock market couldn't take the spring out of the president's step, as he pointed out the markets were still higher than they had been when he took office. "We were set to hit 30,000 on the Dow - this is a number that nobody ever even came close to. Even though it's down by 10 or 11 percent, it's still the highest it's ever been by far."

While he acknowledged the coronavirus and any attendant economic depression could have an impact on his reelection chances, he implored Americans to focus on what was important — flipping the House back to GOP control in November.

In an unusual show of cooperation, Democrats and Republicans approved the coronavirus spending bill in the space of days, with the Senate voting almost unanimously to pass the package on Thursday, after the virus' rapid spread convinced House members to drop the partisan amendments they had initially tried to shoehorn into the text. California and Washington have both declared a state of emergency, and cases have been confirmed in several states on the East Coast.

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