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Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Fed expanded yet another of its special purpose vehicles Monday, increasing eligibility for its Main Street Lending Program and raising the percentage of the loans that it will take on to 95%.

What it means: The Main Street program is the Fed's attempt to get money directly to more American businesses that have been left out of the Paycheck Protection Program and other CARES Act initiatives.

  • The Fed lowered the minimum loan amount to $250,000, opening the vehicle to smaller companies than before, and also raised the maximum loan limit.
  • The Fed also lengthened the repayment schedule so that borrowers don't need to begin paying back the loan's principal for two years, and extended the term to five years.

Why it matters: These changes are likely to increase the number of borrowers able to participate in the program.

  • It could also invite significant moral hazard for both the banks that are assigned to approve the loans (but will now only be on the hook for 5% of the loan amount) and the companies applying for them.
  • It also makes it more likely the Fed will loan out money that will not be paid back, violating a central tenet of the Federal Reserve Act.

What we're hearing: "The Fed simply views the risks that they are taking as commensurate with the true needs of Main Street," Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at tax and consulting firm RSM, tells Axios.

  • Both the Treasury Department and the Fed "are signaling to the public that the risks around the economic outlook are sufficient to push aside notions of moral hazard to avoid long-term damage to the real economy."

Watch this space: The Main Street vehicle has become contentious on Capitol Hill because it is expected to be accessed by oil and gas companies that have been offered no other lifelines from Congress.

  • Many are heavily indebted and have low credit ratings, but are likely to hold significant sway among bankers, especially in oil-rich states.
  • Treasury and the Fed will be taking on almost all of the risk for the loans, but the banks will be making the decisions on who is approved.

Go deeper

Fed expectations for Q3 GDP stall and diverge

The latest real-time Fed estimates of U.S. GDP from the New York and Atlanta Fed "nowcasting" models both show the economy’s momentum has slowed over the summer, but diverge widely.

By the numbers: The Atlanta Fed's model has jumped thanks largely to better-than-expected readings on Institute for Supply Management (ISM) manufacturing and services sector and government GDP and employment data.

Swastikas found outside Union Station in Washington, D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.

Updated 54 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker