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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Fed Chair Jerome Powell during a virtual press conference last month. Photo: Federal Reserve via Getty Images

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said during a virtual interview Friday that the economic blowback from the coronavirus pandemic is hitting those who can least afford it the hardest.

Why it matters: The U.S. economy has plunged into the worst downturn since the Great Depression at a record pace, and a full recovery may take years. More Americans are collecting unemployment now than ever before in history — and 40% of those out of work are in the poorest U.S. households, per a recent Fed survey.

"The pandemic is falling on those least able to bear its burdens. It is a great increaser of inequality. It is low-paid workers who are bearing the brunt of this and women to an extraordinary degree."
— Powell, speaking to Princeton professor Alan Blinder

Powell’s comments came in response to a question about whether the Fed’s latest policies will lead to more income inequality in America. He said "absolutely not."

  • Powell said the Fed’s recent actions were aimed at "creating an environment" where workers will have the best chance to keep their job, get a new job, or go back to their old job if they were furloughed.
  • The Fed's policies have been cited as one reason for the stock market's rebound.

Powell also said that its loan program for medium and large businesses, called the Main Street Lending Program, is "days away" from making its first loans.

  • Powell added that a full economic recovery "will really depend on people being confident that it's safe to go out," while a second wave of the outbreak would "undermine public confidence and might make for a significantly longer recovery, and weaker recovery."

The backdrop: The Fed has taken huge — and sometimes unprecedented — steps in an effort to support key funding markets and the economy.

  • "We crossed a lot of red lines, that had not been crossed before ... this is that situation in which you do that, and you figure it out afterward," Powell said.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Sep 2, 2020 - Economy & Business

Here comes the real recession

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Economists are warning that the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic is now creating another recession: mass job losses, business failures and declines in spending even in industries not directly impacted by the virus.

Why it matters: The looming recession — a possible recession within a recession is less severe than the coronavirus-driven downturn. But it's more likely to permanently push millions out of the labor force, lower wages and leave long-lasting scars on the economy.

Air quality alerts issued as California fires threaten more sequoias

The Windy Fire blazes through the Long Meadow Grove of giant sequoia trees near the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Forest, near California Hot Springs, on Tuesday. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Two wildfires were threatening California's sequoia trees over overnight — hours after authorities issued fresh evacuation orders and warnings, along with air quality alerts.

The big picture: Air quality alerts were issued Wednesday for the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley as smoke from the Windy and KNP Complex fires resulted in hazy, "ash-filled" skies from Fresno to Tulare, the Los Angeles Times notes.

Asymptomatic Florida students exposed to COVID no longer have to quarantine

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a September news conference in Viera, Fla. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Wednesday an emergency order allowing parents to decide whether their children should quarantine or stay in school if they're exposed to COVID-19, provided they're asymptomatic.

Why it matters: People infected with COVID-19 can spread the coronavirus starting from two days before they display symptoms, according to the CDC. Quarantine helps prevent the virus' spread.

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