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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.

54 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.