Yesterday, Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. Powell updated the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on the actions of the Federal Reserve to use its policies to help alleviate the economic burden resulting from the pandemic.
He noted economic activity has continued to recover from its depressed second-quarter level. The reopening of the economy led to a rapid rebound in activity, and real gross domestic product, or GDP, rose at an annual rate of 33 percent in the third quarter. In recent months, however, the pace of improvement has moderated. Household spending on goods, especially durable goods, has been strong and has moved above its pre-pandemic level. In contrast, spending on services remains low largely because of ongoing weakness in sectors that typically require people to gather closely, including travel and hospitality.
Powell said the Federal Reserve's response has been guided by its mandate to promote maximum employment and stable prices for the American people, along with its responsibilities to promote the stability of the financial system. The CARES Act assigns sole authority over its funds to the Treasury Secretary, subject to the statute's specified limits. The Secretary has indicated that these limits do not permit the CARES Act-funded facilities to make new loans or purchase new assets after December 31 of this year. Accordingly, the Federal Reserve will return the unused portion of funds allocated to the lending programs that are backstopped by the CARES Act in connection with their termination at the end of this year. As the Secretary noted in his letter, non-CARES Act funds in the Exchange Stabilization Fund are available to support emergency lending facilities if they are needed.