Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday defended the Federal Reserve’s efforts to support the economy during the pandemic-induced recession from assertions that its programs bungled aspects of its response.
The central bank has faced criticism for not making the Main Street program easier to use for banks, which evaluate and issue the loans. The Fed buys 95% of the loan from the banks, reducing their credit risk.
Changes to the CRA laws are considered long overdue among banking experts, especially given the rise of online banking.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the economic outlook still remains highly uncertain and depends heavily on the ability of the U.S. to get control of the pandemic.
Federal Reserve policymakers will meet this week for the first time since they significantly revised the Fed’s operating framework in ways that will likely keep short-term interest rates near zero for years to come.
Behind the Fed’s new thinking is an ailing economy in the grip of a viral pandemic and a stubbornly low inflation rate that has long defied the Fed’s efforts to raise it.
While there are still enough coins out there, they aren’t circulating as freely because many businesses have been closed and consumers aren’t out spending as usual.
A top Federal Reserve official on Friday said the small number of loans approved so far would likely expand by a significant amount in coming months, especially if the pandemic worsens.
The Federal Reserve says that its Main Street Lending Program designed to help small and medium-sized companies get through the pandemic has managed to make just eight loans in its first month of operations.
The Treasury Department will ramp up the size of the bonds and other securities it auctions across-the-board in the face of the unprecedented borrowing needs.
Besides keeping short-term rates pinned at nearly zero, the Federal Reserve also said it will continue to buy about $120 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds each month to support the economy.
The extension of seven emergency lending programs through the end of the year is an acknowledgement that the programs might be necessary for longer than was first thought as the nation struggles to control the coronavirus.
The Fed said Friday that its Main Street Lending Program, which is targeted to mid-sized businesses, will now extend credit to not-for-profits with at least 10 employees and endowments of less than $3 billion.
The Federal Reserve said Friday that it purchased $1.3 billion in corporate bonds in late June as part of its effort to keep U.S. interest rates low and ensure large companies can borrow by selling bonds.
Fed officials say more than 200 banks have signed up to participate since the program began two weeks ago, but that’s a small slice of the nation’s roughly 5,000 lenders. None have made any loans yet.
The Federal Reserve on Sunday released a list of roughly 750 companies, including Apple, Walmart and ExxonMobil, whose corporate bonds it will purchase in the coming months in an effort to keep borrowing costs low and smooth the flow of credit.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated his belief that Congress must avoid withdrawing its own rescue efforts too quickly or else the most disadvantaged households would disproportionately suffer.
The program will purchase existing bonds on the open market, as opposed to newly-issued debt. The announcement boosted the stock market, which was already rebounding from early losses.
Chairman Jerome Powell stressed the Fed’s commitment to ultra-low borrowing rates for the foreseeable future. “We’re not thinking about raising rates,” he said. “We’re not even thinking about thinking about raising rates.”
The Federal Reserve is expanding the range of companies that will qualify for its soon-to-begin Main Street Lending Program, in which the Fed will lend directly to individual companies for the first time since the Great Depression.