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Screengrab of Powell's virtual news conference last month. Photo: Federal Reserve via Getty Images

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Congress may need to do more to prevent a worse economic downturn triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, in an interview with the Peterson Institute's Adam Posen on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Powell warned of dire economic consequences without additional stimulus. While the Fed has responded to the pandemic with the most aggressive policy actions in the central bank's history, it doesn't have the power to get money directly in the hands of Americans and businesses in the form of grants like Congress does.

The backdrop: The coronavirus has pushed the economy into a downturn not seen since the Great Depression, with a record number of Americans out of work.

  • Congress and the Fed have unleashed trillions of dollars in coronavirus aid to support the economy.
  • House Democrats proposed another $3 trillion in stimulus this week, but more spending is facing resistance from Republican members of Congress.

What they're saying: "Additional fiscal support could be costly, but worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery," Powell said.

  • "It's not the time to prioritize" concerns about fiscal spending, Powell said.

Powell warned about the long-lasting damage a steep, prolonged downturn could have on the economy, including permanent scarring to the most vulnerable workers in the labor force.

  • In a Fed survey set to be released tomorrow, Powell said 40% of people making less than $40,000/year who were employed in February, lost their job in March.

Go deeper: Mnuchin says White House will decide on more coronavirus relief in "a few weeks"

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Aug 20, 2020 - Economy & Business

Investors are looking for more action from the Fed in the coming months

Expand chart
Data: Federal Reserve; Chart: Axios Visuals

Minutes from the Fed's July policy meeting were released Wednesday and policymakers' dour outlook suggests that more easing and stimulus could be on the way, strategists who closely watch the central bank say.

Why it matters: More liquidity from the Fed could mean more gains for stock and bond prices and further erosion of the dollar.

Arizona Judge: Adding mask mandates ban to budget bill is unconstitutional

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An Arizona judge ruled Monday that the state's ban on mask mandates in schools, and other measures put into the state budget by Republicans, are unconstitutional, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The sweeping ruling voids a ban on vaccine requirements for public universities, community colleges and local governments, and strikes down some non-COVID-related measures like a ban on teaching critical race theory in classrooms and anti-fraud measures for ballots.

60 mins ago - Health

Pfizer testing oral pill for prevention of COVID

Photo: Soumyabrata Roy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pfizer announced Monday that it is testing an oral antiviral drug that would help prevent COVID-19.

Why it matters: This drug is one of several antiviral pills that could have a massive impact on coronavirus treatment since not everyone will get a vaccine, and it may take years to fully vaccinate people in certain countries, per Axios' Alison Snyder.