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Australia's Legislators OK $48B For Coronavirus Mitigation

By Joseph Boris · March 23, 2020, 4:12 PM EDT

Australian lawmakers approved AU$83.6 billion ($48.4 billion) in coronavirus-related stimulus and tax relief measures on Monday that would release thousands of dollars in retirement funds to individuals and let more businesses depreciate assets.

Australia’s Senate announced its passage of the omnibus legislation on Twitter. Hours later, the House of Representatives followed suit, according to that chamber’s Twitter account. It is expected the legislation will be enacted within a few days by the governor-general, the U.K. monarchy’s representative in Australia.

The various bills, presented by the government on March 12, are mainly aimed at providing tax-free payments to as many as 1 million individual Australians and additional relief to employers in response to the economic impact of the novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

The final version of the package added AU$40 billion to a fund for emergency measures such as buying medical supplies or providing additional assistance to those in need.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a speech to Parliament on Monday before the votes that 2020 will be the “toughest year of our lives.” He lamented a “global health pandemic that has fast become an economic crisis the like of which we have not seen since the Great Depression.”

On Sunday across Australia, pubs, clubs, churches, restaurants and cafes were ordered closed, leaving tens of thousands of workers unemployed. As of Monday, the country of 24 million people had recorded just over 1,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including seven deaths.

--Editing by John Oudens.

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