Yellen Says ‘We Need to Act Big’ on Covid Relief

Yellen Says ‘We Need to Act Big’ on Covid Relief

Treasury secretary warns of tough months ahead until pandemic is under control, seeks details on GameStop mania

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Thursday that President Biden wants to advance a new coronavirus relief package with bipartisan support but reiterated that the administration must act forcefully with a deal that supports families and businesses until the pandemic ends.

“We need to act big,” she said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America. “We need to make sure that we provide a bridge so that people aren’t scarred indefinitely by this crisis.”

Ms. Yellen also said she would discuss with a group of regulators on Thursday whether the recent market volatility related to GameStop Corp. and other stocks warrants some kind of further action from Washington.

“We really need to make sure that our financial markets are functioning properly, efficiently and that investors are protected,” she said, but added that regulators need to understand deeply what happened before making any decisions.

Ms. Yellen declined to say how soon the White House may move to advance Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief proposal without Republican support, if conversations over a bipartisan agreement drag on. House and Senate leaders took steps this week to begin a process, known as reconciliation, that would allow them to pass a measure with a simple majority vote in the Senate—rather than the 60 votes required for most Senate legislation.

“The president would really like to do this on a bipartisan basis,” she said. “He’s met with Republicans, he’s looking to cooperate.”

Asked what she expects to see in Friday’s January employment report, Ms. Yellen said she wasn’t sure what the report would show, but noted that initial claims for jobless benefits continue to hover at record levels, and said the U.S. will face tough months ahead until the pandemic is brought under control. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect the U.S. added 105,000 jobs last month, after employment declined in December, ending a seven-month stretch of job creation.

Ms. Yellen said she has been meeting virtually with Democratic and Republican mayors from across the country as well as small-business owners, including a florist from New Mexico and a restaurant and food truck owner in Miami, all of whom are asking for additional federal support.

“We want to make sure we’ve got a good strong labor market that can put people back to work and that these small businesses that need help survive,” she said.

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