COVID-19

Fed pandemic lending programs a sticking point in COVID relief talks

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Dec 18, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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The Fed programs include Main Street business loans and purchases of corporate and municipal bonds. Pictured: Fed Chair Jerome Powell at a House committee hearing on Dec. 2, 2020. Pool/Getty Images
COVID-19

Fed pandemic lending programs a sticking point in COVID relief talks

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Dec 18, 2020
The Fed programs include Main Street business loans and purchases of corporate and municipal bonds. Pictured: Fed Chair Jerome Powell at a House committee hearing on Dec. 2, 2020. Pool/Getty Images
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Republicans and Democrats are set for more bargaining Friday to see if new COVID relief in the $900 billion range is still possible before year’s end. How long might extra federal money for unemployment go on into the spring?

And something else that’s contentious involves the future role of America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve. A group of Senate Republicans wants the COVID relief bill to specifically prohibit the Fed from restarting its pandemic lending programs or creating anything like them in the future.

The Fed programs include Main Street business loans and purchases of corporate and municipal bonds. Republicans say Democrats could pressure the Fed to revive the programs and use them to bail out mismanaged cities and corporations. Democrats say a ban on pandemic lending now could make it impossible for the Fed to start emergency lending programs in the future to backstop the economy without congressional approval.

In spite of protests from the Fed, the Treasury Department cut off money for most of the COVID lending programs, insisting they stop at the end of this year as scheduled.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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