SF Fed president: “Each one of us in the economy has a role to play”
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San Francisco was one of the first U.S. cities to adopt stay-at-home policies in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. And that meant the employees at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco saw firsthand what the pandemic might mean for the economy.
“I’m seeing that the American people are doing the right thing for public health and sheltering in place,” said San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly in an interview with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal. “And this has caused a hard stop on the economy on economic activity.”
While headquartered in downtown San Francisco, the bank oversees the 12th Federal Reserve district, which includes California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Arizona. It is geographically the largest Fed district.
Daly took over as president of the bank in 2018. Her background is unique among Fed officials, as she graduated high school with a GED certificate after dropping out at 15.
“My empathy for those who don’t have an equal footing is always high,” said Daly when asked if her background gave her more empathy for those who lack a voice. “But all you have to do is look out my window in Oakland, California, and see the numerous small businesses who employ one or two people and realize those people aren’t working.”
“This is why each one of us in the economy has a role to play,” Daly said. “Even if you’re not a policymaker, you can pay for services that you would normally get and try to help those individuals who we rely on every day keep some level of income so that they’re as well prepared to come out of this as we are who are lucky enough to telework.”
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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