Spotlight Exclusives

Atlanta Fed Sees “Moral and Economic” Need to Address Racism

Spotlight Staff Spotlight Staff, posted on

On Thursday, the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center hosted a virtual Q&A with Raphael Bostic, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Bostic discussed the effectiveness of the Atlanta Fed’s monetary policy responses to the current COVID-19 public health crisis, as well as his recent essay, “A Moral and Economic Imperative to End Racism.”

Bostic first explained the effects of the pandemic on the regional economy ­– the Atlanta Fed covers Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, as well as select counties in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. He said that despite the contraction of economic activity demanded by COVID-19, an increase of over 7 million jobs as states have begun the reopening processes is in part reflective of smart monetary policy. However, he also noted that the failure of states such as Florida and Georgia to take public health guidelines seriously in their reopening could create a prolonged and uneven downturn and recovery.

Though Bostic acknowledged the success of national economic relief packages in aiding workers and families, he expressed fear of instability once unemployment insurance programs begin to expire at the end of July. He has maintained close communication with policymakers to ensure providing economic relief to those who need it most remains a priority.

Bostic also expressed concern regarding the survival of the many small, independent businesses in the Atlanta Fed’s district. He stressed that along with preexisting competitive pressures, the circumstances of COVID-19 are accelerating change across multiple industries.

In the second half of the discussion, Bostic expanded on topics covered in his essay. “We have an internal responsibility to try to make sure that ethnic minorities have real opportunities because we are operating at the institutional level,” he said. “Institutional problems need institutional solutions.”

He said the Fed is reassessing how to emphasize racial equity in its own economic measurements and practices. This includes reevaluating its economic metrics to be more mindful of differences in income and wealth distribution. His team is also reevaluating hiring, outreach, and reimbursement practices to ensure racial and economic diversity and inclusivity.

Bostic concluded by stressing the challenges that lie ahead and that economic recovery will not occur at the same pace across all communities and geographies. As such, he said, it is imperative to continue commerce where possible while aggressively minimizing the spread of the virus.

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