1st LD: Yellen urges Congress to pass new COVID-19 relief package as recovery stalls amid surging cases


WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Janet Yellen, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for the treasury secretary, on Tuesday urged U.S. Congress to pass a new COVID-19 relief package as the economic recovery is losing momentum amid surging coronavirus cases.

"Economists don't always agree, but I think there is a consensus now: Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now - and long-term scarring of the economy later," Yellen said at her confirmation hearing virtually held by the Senate Finance Committee.

"The pandemic has caused widespread devastation. Whole industries have paused their work. Eighteen million unemployment insurance claims are being paid every week. Food bank shelves are going empty. The damage has been sweeping," she said.

Yellen urged lawmakers to "act big" with the COVID-19 relief package with interest rates at historic lows. "In the long run, I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time," she said.

Yellen's remarks came after Biden last week unveiled a 1.9-trillion-U.S. dollar COVID-19 relief proposal, which draw opposition from a growing number of congressional Republicans.

If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would be the first woman to serve as U.S. treasury secretary in the department's 231 years of history. She would also be the first person to have served as treasury secretary, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, and chair of the Federal Reserve.

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