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Chile’s president proposes new stimulus to help poor through coronavirus

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chilean President Sebastian Pinera promised on Monday to send stimulus checks to at least 1.8 million of the country’s lowest-income households, which have seen their meager incomes ravaged by the coronavirus outbreak.

The center-right Pinera said in a televised speech the program would likely span at least three months and carry a price tag of $300 million per month. He said he planned to move the legislation necessary to implement the plan to Congress early this week.

Chile, one of Latin America’s wealthiest nations, has reported 10,000 cases of the virus in the nearly two months since the virus hit.

The South American nation has already announced a “historic” stimulus package of $17 billion, worth more than 5% of gross domestic product. Measures include beefed-up unemployment checks, deferred tax payments and government-backed credit lines for small business.

The outbreak, and the restrictions imposed to contain it, are expected to batter its already ailing economy.

Economists widely predict a sharp contraction of Chile´s gross domestic product in 2020 and double-digit unemployment.

Piñera said he hoped the stimulus would help bridge the gap for the poorest families. Families in the lowest-income group would receive a contribution equivalent to about $300 per month, he said.

“We hope that the processing of this bill will be expeditious so that we can begin to benefit the most vulnerable Chilean families as of May,” Piñera said.

(Reporting by Natalia Ramos; writing by Dave Sherwood; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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