By Harrison Arubu,
New York,/Mustapha Sumaila, Abuja, March 27, 2020
President Donald Trump on Friday signed the $2.2 trillion (N827 trillion) financial stimulus package to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
This came hours after the country’s House of Representatives approved the bipartisan bill, which the Senate passed on Wednesday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the U.S. is currently the hardest-hit country in terms of the COVID-19 infections, accounting for no fewer than 99,000 cases.
Under the law, the government will make direct payments totaling $290 billion (N109 trillion) to Americans earning below $99,000 (N37 million) per annum.
They are expected to get directly get up to $1,200 (N451,000) each, in addition to $500 (N188,000) per child.
On Wednesday, a record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits amid massive job losses occasioned by the pandemic.
The package includes the payment of another $260 billion (N97 trillion) to jobless and laid-off workers for up to four months.
Small businesses with less than 500 employees and airlines will get a total of $881 billion (N331 trillion) as soft loans to cushion the economic effect of the virus.
In brief remarks, after the signing at the White House in Washington, Trump thanked “Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first”.
He said the package would pave way for economic recovery in the U.S., adding that the country would have “a tremendous rebound’’.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has given directive for the protection of staff salaries, pensions of retirees and statutory transfer in spite of the challenge posed by COVID-19 that has affected the economy.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this when she appeared as a guest on Channels Television “Politics Today” programme monitored by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Friday.
Ahmed said the president also directed that key infrastructure projects such as major roads, railway line and power that were critical to growth and development were also protected.
She admitted that the revenue had been threatened by the pandemic, adding that the country’s ability to implement the 2020 budget at the state and federal level would be significantly hampered.
According to her, with all the impact of COVID-19, it is clear that global growth is going to decline significantly and in worse case, the global economy may go into recession and Nigeria is not isolated from this.
“We made a review of the situation and we decided we need to scale back on our plans so as to bring it into the current reality.
“For instance, the crude oil benchmarks of 57 dollars per barrel in 2020 budget, we had to scale it back to 30 dollars.
“We have been reviewing the budget to look at where we can defer expenditures to another period when things pick up and we have done assessment to reduce the size of the budget by as much as N1.5 trillion.
“We are also looking at our debt service obligation by talking to our lenders to renegotiate repayment term or even seek stay of debt service to preserve them because of this current emergency,” she explained.