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Yellen pushes for COVID-19 relief: 'The price of doing too little is much higher than the price of doing something big'

Yellen pushes for COVID-19 relief: 'The price of doing too little is much higher than the price of doing something big'
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Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenDebt to break WWII record by 2031 Inflation debate heats up over Biden relief bill Biden cautious in making Trump tax returns decision MORE argued in a Thursday interview with CNBC that it's crucial to go big on the next round of coronavirus relief legislation.

“We think it’s very important to have a big package [that] addresses the pain this has caused — 15 million Americans behind on their rent, 24 million adults and 12 million children who don’t have enough to eat, small businesses failing,” Yellen told the network’s Sara Eisen.

“I think the price of doing too little is much higher than the price of doing something big. We think that the benefits will far outweigh the costs in the longer run,” she added, repeating a phrase she has frequently used to argue for a larger stimulus.

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The administration has been working with lawmakers, business groups and others on President BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid and stimulus package. Republicans have balked at the price tag, but Democrats are increasingly indicating their willingness to pass legislation with or without GOP support.

Yellen said on CNBC that she is unconcerned about the potential for such spending to cause inflation.

“Inflation has been very low for over a decade, and you know it’s a risk, but it’s a risk that the Federal Reserve and others have tools to address,” the former Federal Reserve chair said. “The greater risk is of scarring the people, having this pandemic take a permanent lifelong toll on their lives and livelihoods.”

Recent data indicate strong retail sales but a continuously precarious unemployment landscape in the coronavirus-hobbled economy. The Labor Department reported Thursday that 861,000 people filed jobless claims in the last week, showing no signs of receding to a pre-coronavirus status quo.

Yellen pointed to these continued woes to argue for direct $1,400 payments to Americans, as included in the Biden package.

“I think these checks really will provide relief and they’ll help jump-start our economy, giving people money to spend when we can get out again and go back to our former lives,” she said. “So you know, there’re a lot of families that are operating on the margin. And I think these checks will really help them.”