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San Francisco Fed president Mary Daly. Photo: Nick Otto/Washington Post via Getty Images

While the Fed chair has downplayed and even denied the central bank's role in ratcheting up income inequality and the K-shaped recovery, other Fed members are taking responsibility and calling for change.

What happened: San Francisco Fed president Mary Daly took the subject head-on in a speech earlier this week, saying the Fed "will need to do more to ensure that the benefits of low interest rates and rising asset valuations can spread widely throughout the economy."

"The COVID-19 response made it clear that our interest rate policies and lending programs do not reach everyone equally. Many businesses and households are outside of the traditional banking system and do not have the same opportunities to refinance or initiate loans."
"We’ve heard repeatedly in the 12th District and across the country that these differences hampered the pandemic relief, slowing its delivery to many in need."
"To solve these issues, and increase the reach of the financial infrastructure, we will need 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."
"These institutions are already connected to low- and moderate-income communities and are innovating to improve their reach among those most in need. It could also mean taking lessons from recent months and developing blueprints for lending relief programs that can be more equitably deployed next time they are needed."

Of note: Daly isn't the first Fed member to acknowledge the Fed's role in inequality. The subject of what the Fed can do to reduce rather than increase inequality was broached in October at the Minneapolis Fed's "Racism and the economy" event.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 13, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Recovery and resilience after COVID-19

On Wednesday, January 13, Axios' Dan Primack and Dion Rabouin hosted a conversation on the future of equitable economic recovery, featuring Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and chef and World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés. They unpacked the pandemic's impact on small businesses and minority communities and spotlighting efforts to create an inclusive economy.

José Andrés discussed the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality and food industry, stressing the survival of restaurants as a critical part of the U.S. economic recovery.

  • On the food industry's need for federal support: "Restaurants will open again, and the issue is: how many are we going to lose from today until the next three, six months, or one year until everything goes back to normal? We have to make sure that the federal government is behind those businesses that are badly affected by this pandemic."
  • On ensuring living wages for workers: "We need to make sure that ... the food industry is not an industry that lives on the fringe of almost poverty, but that every American employee, every restaurant worker will make a decent living."

Rep. Ro Khanna unpacked the pandemic's impact on rural and minority communities and outlined a strategy for the Federal Reserve Board to better target their efforts.

  • On having the Fed scrutinize how they've been lending: "[We need] to make sure that 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."
  • On taking a long-term approach to economic recovery: "We need to infuse [the Small Business Administration] with loans. I would do $10 trillion over 10 years to have 200,000 more loans to small businesses across America."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with Mastercard's strategic growth Vice Chairman and President Michael Froman who discussed the role of the private sector in times of crisis.

  • "The private sector can do a lot. And by this I mean not just philanthropy or corporate social responsibility or ESG efforts. As important as all of those are, the key is really getting companies to look at their products and services, technology and expertise and explore what they can do to have a positive social impact on a commercially sustainable basis."

Thank you Mastercard for sponsoring this event.

Fed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon

Fed chair Jerome Powell ahead of a congressional hearing in December. (Photo via Getty Images)

Interest rates will stay near zero for the foreseeable future, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said on Thursday.

Why it matters: It staves off concerns that the central bank is eyeing pulling back on its easy money policy if the economy recovers faster than anticipated.

Ina Fried, author of Login
44 mins ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.