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Federal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills

The Hill logo The Hill 4/12/2021 Mychael Schnell
a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: Federal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills © Greg Nash Federal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says the economy would have been "so much worse" if the COVID-19 relief bills were never passed by Congress.

In an interview with "60 Minutes" that aired on Sunday, CBS's Scott Pelley asked Powell what he thinks would have happened to the economy if the rescue packages were never passed.

"You know, I hate to even think. It would've been so much worse," Powell told Pelley.

"Congress, in effect, replaced people's incomes. Kept them in their homes, kept them solvent, kept their lives together with what they did in the CARES Act. It was heroic," he said.

Former President Trump signed the first major coronavirus relief bill, the $2 trillion CARES Act, in March 2020. On Dec. 27, Trump signed another relief package, this one totaling $2.3 trillion.

On March 11, President Biden signed a third major COVID-19 relief bill into law, totaling $1.9 trillion.

Powell told the program that the unknowns at the outset of the pandemic were "terrifying," which is why he became a vocal supporter of the multitrillion-dollar relief legislation.

He also took action on his own at the Federal Reserve, invoking the Fed's emergency lending powers, "60 Minutes" noted. Powell lowered the benchmark interest rate to near zero, and purchased trillions of dollars in bonds on the open market so credit could continue to flow, the program reported.

Powell added that the economy performed "substantially better" than what was expected when the coronavirus first set in, noting, however, that the more than 550,000 lives lost is a "tragedy."

"So I think if you look back a year ago to when we last spoke, the economy's actually performed better than we had feared. Substantially better," Powell said.

"The other side of that, though, is if you told me at this time last year that 550,000 plus people and counting would die of COVID-19, I would have been shocked. You know, it's a lot of tragedy. It really is. And we don't want to forget that," he continued.

Since the height of the pandemic last spring, The U.S. has made strides in its recovery effort. Earlier this month, the Labor Department reported that the U.S. added 916,000 jobs in March, which shattered economist projections of 675,000 jobs.

Additionally, the department reported that the unemployment rate fell to 6 percent last month.

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