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Photo: Axios screenshot

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) laid out a few specific policies he and some of Congress' other leading progressives are likely to demand when the next U.S. Congress begins its term.

The big picture: Khanna wants Congress to deliver more direct aid to Americans in the form of $2,000 monthly checks and to provide $1 trillion over 10 years in loans and grants to small businesses but is also taking aim at the Fed, arguing that the central bank has gone astray of its original intent to help small businesses and community banks.

  • "It's a quirk of our system that the Fed has chosen only to lend to financial institutions or large corporations," Khanna told me during Axios' Recovery and Resilience After COVID-19 event Wednesday.
  • "They could easily distribute that money [to small businesses]. In my view, that was the original intention of the Fed and Congress should clarify that."

And it's not just a matter of chastising the Fed, Khanna says. "We need to give the Fed more explicit authority to [reexamine] how they have been lending and make sure lending isn't concentrated just to financial institutions and large corporations, that they're using their regional banks to be regional economic development banks considering rural and minority communities."

Why it matters: Khanna (D-Calif.) sits on the House budget committee and the committee on oversight and reform and is seen as something of a leading voice for progressive Democrats.

  • His view that the Fed needs to change the way it operates is one that is gaining traction among popular and powerful members of Congress.

Between the lines: Khanna's calls for the Fed to reorient its lending structure as a way to counter the trend of growing wealth inequality echoes San Francisco Fed president Mary Daly who in December called for the Fed to "think outside of the traditional banking box."

  • "This could mean developing firmer partnerships with Community Development Financial Institutions and other nonprofit or small-dollar lenders."

Why you'll hear about this again: "The concentration of capital is part of what has left communities behind," Khanna said.

Go deeper

Sen. Tina Smith: Access to banking is a civil rights issue

Photo: Axios screenshot

Equal access to banking and financial services should be protected under the Civil Rights Act, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said on Thursday in an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: People of color, particularly Black people, risk being racially profiled in visits to banks, yet the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not identify financial institutions as businesses that must not treat black customers differently. "That loophole makes it hard for victims of racial profiling to win in court," a New York Times investigation found.

Updated 43 mins ago - Health

WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Health measures taken to combat COVID-19 before the emergence of Omicron would also help against the new variant of concern, World Health Organization officials said Friday.

What they're saying: Takeshi Kasai, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said during a virtual briefing broadcast from Manila, Philippines, that border controls imposed by the U.S. and other nations can "buy time" to deal with the variant, but warned "every country and every community must prepare for new surges in cases."

2 hours ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.

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