Washington, Nov 18 | US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell renewed his call for Congress to roll out more fiscal support, as the country faces a challenging economic outlook amid surging COVID-19 cases.
Fiscal policy, which includes taxing and spending, can provide “direct, targeted income support” for groups that really need it, Powell said on Tuesday at the virtually held Bay Area Council Business Hall of Fame awards ceremony, Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.
“There hasn’t been a bigger need for it in a long time,” said the Fed chief, adding that it’s “essential” for Congress to pass another coronavirus relief package as soon as possible.
Despite recent news on vaccine development, Powell cautioned that significant downside risks for the economy remain, as widespread vaccination is still months away even in the best case.
“The vaccine news is certainly good news, particularly in the medium term,” Powell said, while noting that in the near term, “there are significant challenges and uncertainty.”
Confirmed COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing across the United States, with over 1 million new cases reported in the last seven days, according to data updated Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The total number of cases in the country surpassed 11 million.
At least 45 states have reported more new infections last week compared with the previous week, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. In response to surging infections, governors across the country have reinstated restrictive measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been deadlocked for months over the size and scope of the next round of fiscal support.
The Democrats-controlled House of Representatives in early October passed a US $2.2 trillion relief bill. Some Senate Republicans, however, insisted on a relief package below US $1 trillion, and want to advance a US $500 billion bill.
US Democratic leaders on Tuesday asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to restart negotiations on a new COVID-19 relief package this week as confirmed cases are surging across the country.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession will not end without our help. It is essential that this bill have sufficient funding and delivers meaningful relief to the many Americans who are suffering,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to McConnell.
McConnel said earlier Tuesday that Senate Republicans still want to pass more coronavirus relief for the American people, while denouncing Democrats’ relief proposal as “unrealistic and poorly-targeted.”