Janet Yellen, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for treasury secretary, urged Congress to “act big” on a coronavirus relief package, even if doing so would involve massive deficit spending.
Yellen, who served as chair of the Federal Reserve under Presidents Obama and Trump, is widely expected to be confirmed in the Senate. Confirmation hearings for Yellen have already begun in the Senate Finance Committee, and during the course of these hearings, Yellen testified, “Neither the president-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big. … I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time.”
Yellen’s comments come as Congress is expected to take up President-elect Biden’s coronavirus aid package — which includes a price tag that may exceed $2 trillion — in the coming days. The package includes an additional $1,400 in direct payments to families, in addition to the $600 that was approved by Congress in the waning days of Trump’s presidency. The proposed Biden package also includes over $400 billion in funds to aid in distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, which has thus far been frustrated by administrative delays, as well as over $400 billion in relief for small businesses.
The United States spent more than $2.5 trillion in coronavirus relief money in 2020, meaning that coronavirus relief spending more than doubled the entire federal discretionary budget from 2019.