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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

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.

UNC race conscious admissions process upheld by judge

Students walk through the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Aug. 18, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill can continue its race conscious admissions process, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

Why it matters: The case could end up in the Supreme Court after the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) vowed to appeal the judge's ruling that UNC didn't discriminate against against white and Asian American applicants in its policy that it said was designed to increase diversity.

SEC debunks conspiracy theories about meme stock mania

Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The SEC issued its long-awaited report on the meme stock mania, which downplayed the narrative that a "short squeeze" was the primary driver behind GameStop's historic stock moves — and shot down conspiracy theories about the event.

Why it matters: The postmortem was highly anticipated, largely because of what it could hint about what the regulator thinks should be done in wake of the saga. But the report stopped short of specific policy recommendations.