Treasury secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday warned of “tough months ahead” before the US economy gets to the other side if the coronavirus-related crisis.
She also said that she and financial market regulators needed to “understand deeply” what happened in the trading frenzy involving GameStop and other retail stocks in recent days before taking any action.
Yellen, who is convening a meeting of top market regulators on Thursday, told ABC’s Good Morning America: “We really need to make sure that our financial markets are functioning properly, efficiently and that investors are protected.”
She added: “We’re going to discuss … whether or not the recent events warrant further action.”
In her first television interview since being confirmed as Joe Biden’s treasury secretary, having previously served as chair of the federal reserve – the first time a woman has held either of those posts – Yellen also urged Congress to “act forcefully” on the coronavirus relief package now under discussion there.
Biden, US president and Yellen want a huge $1.9tn package to be passed, preferably with bipartisan support, although a group of moderate Republicans has suggested a bill worth less than a third of that.
Yellen warned “we have got some tough months ahead” on the economy before it “gets to the other side” of the coronavirus-related crisis and she said the picture was “as serious as any I have seen in my lifetime”.
“We need to act forcefully to make sure Americans do not suffer needlessly,” she said.
The treasury secretary forecast that if Congress passes the bill as currently outlined, it could reduce child poverty in the US by 50 percent and she wanted to “make sure this package gets into law”.
Democrats are hoping to pass legislation on further coronavirus relief by March – with or without Republican support.
“Seeing long lines of people waiting to get food is something we should never see in the United States,” Yellen said, adding: “There are people worrying about whether they will have a roof over their heads and [Biden] will address that urgent need.”
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