Janet Yellen, who led the US central bank from 2014 to 2018, becomes the first woman to head the 232-year old Treasury Department after gaining an overwhelming 84-15 Senate vote for the key economic position.
In her new role, Yellen will be responsible for guiding Biden’s USD1.9 trillion stimulus programme, which comes just months after the federal government closed out fiscal 2020 with a deficit exceeding USD3 trillion. She is expected to play a key role in gaining congressional approval which is running into stiff opposition from Republicans who believe the price tag on the relief package is too high.
Yellen urged quick action on the stimulus package that would provide an additional USD1,400 in payments to individuals making below USD75,000 annually as well as providing expanded unemployment benefits, further aid for small businesses and support for cities and states to prevent layoffs. The plan also provides more support for vaccine production and distribution.
During her time at the Federal Reserve, Yellen drew high marks for her stewardship where she employed record-low interest rates and massive bond buying, two policies begun by her predecessor Ben Bernanke, to support the economy as it struggled to emerge from a deep recession.
Yellen will now confront a new crisis brought on by a global pandemic and she will represent the Biden administration in global financial affairs and lead a sprawling department whose responsibilities cover overseeing IRS tax collections, making policy on banking regulations and serving as the administration’s contact with Wall Street.