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Fed rolls out $2.3 trillion to backstop Main Street, local governments during crisis - Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve on Thursday announced a broad, $2.3 trillion effort to bolster local governments and small and mid-sized businesses, the latest in an expanding suite of programs meant to keep the U.S. economy intact as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Announcing details of a promised effort to put its financial weight behind “Main Street,” the Fed said it would work through banks to offer four-year loans to companies of up to 10,000 employees, and begin to directly lend to state governments and more populous counties and cities to help them respond to the crisis.

It may prove to be the Fed’s most groundbreaking step yet in the battle against the economic fallout from a health crisis that has seen a record-shattering 16.8 million people file for unemployment benefits in just three weeks and seen untold numbers of businesses forced to shutter under social distancing rules.

As the pandemic advanced, the Fed set aside inhibitions about inflation, political blowback and other risks that arguably slowed its response to the 2007 to 2009 crisis, and in a matter of weeks has sequentially extended safety nets to different parts of the economy. On Thursday it added help for some key remaining constituencies - small firms, mid-sized industries, local governments, and even corporations which might find their credit standing downgraded because of a fast-evolving economic downturn.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the demands of the crisis have led the central bank to broaden its role beyond the usual focus on keeping markets “liquid” and functional, to helping the United States get the economic and financial space it needs to fix a dire health emergency.

Any reopening of the economy should not be rushed said Powell, warning of any “false start,” an...

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