Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that he has met with homeless Americans in the past and that this reminds him of those he works for as a government official.
Powell said he has not yet met with members of the homeless camp near the Fed building in Washington. He added that he intended to do so in the future.
“I’ll visit when it’s no more news. I’ve met with the homeless many times – at least several times, we say, and I think it’s always good to talk to people and hear what’s going on in their lives . ” he said during a press conference following the Fed’s latest monetary policy decision. “It’s important to get involved, and we bring that understanding into our lives and, frankly, into our work.”
The US Federal Reserve leader did not specify when his previous visits to the homeless took place. It’s unclear whether he has met with the homeless community since President Donald Trump appointed him head of the Fed in late 2017.
“What you find out is that they are you: you are just us. These are people who in many cases have had jobs and lives and have just found themselves in this place,” added the Fed chief. “It’s a difficult problem, however, and there are many, many facets of it, and I realize that the Fed doesn’t have all the tools or anything like that.”
In almost every public appearance in the past 12 months, Powell has highlighted the oversized impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Americans, who are “most incapable of bearing the burden.”
Although it is widely believed that the 14.8% rise in the unemployment rate last year contributed to a parallel rise in homelessness, the federal data measuring these rates remains out of date.
Earlier this spring, the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that homelessness in the United States had risen for the fourth consecutive year. At the beginning of 2020, around 580,000 people were living on the streets or in emergency shelters. This corresponds to an increase of 2.2% from the previous year.
However, given that government reports on homelessness are retroactive, this year’s annual report almost certainly underestimates the spread and severity of the crisis.
Nationwide moratoria on evictions, which have been in place for a year and are due to expire in 2021, have made a small contribution to what HUD secretary Marcia Fudge has classified as a “devastating” homeless crisis.
– CNBC’s Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this report.
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