WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is among those who appeared at a briefing on the economy for U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, his campaign disclosed on Thursday.
Yellen, who ran the U.S. central bank from 2014 to 2018, appeared by video at the first joint economic briefing attended by both Biden and his new running mate, Senator Kamala Harris.
Harris joined the regular briefings that Biden takes on both the public health and economic consequences of the coronavirus crisis. Both sat at separate desks in a makeshift television studio installed in a hotel ballroom in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
Yellen, an academic who had specialized in labor economics, was appointed the first woman Fed chair by Democratic President Barack Obama. She placed an emphasis on unemployment but also raised interest rates as the U.S. economy recovered from the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Trump replaced her with Jerome Powell, who had reversed course on interest rates by the time the economy began faltering under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is unclear what Yellen is telling Biden in private, and Biden declined to say when asked by a reporter. But the former vice president has proposed broad changes at the Fed, including requiring them to regularly report on what they are doing to close economic gaps that exist along racial lines.
Biden said racial economic gaps were among the topics at Thursday’s briefing.
“Dr. Yellen is not an adviser to the Biden/Harris campaign,” said Shannon Meraw, a spokeswoman at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank where Yellen now works. “However, as a Brookings scholar she may provide nonpartisan public policy analysis and recommendations to public officials and candidates for public office.”
A Biden campaign official said Yellen is not an adviser to the campaign but an expert briefing the candidates, though the nature of that distinction was not clear.
Last month, Yellen told a House of Representatives subcommittee that “it would be a catastrophe” not to extend a federal unemployment insurance supplement that recently expired as congressional negotiations on coronavirus relief stalled. She cited the income support for people laid off, who she said are “disproportionately low-wage workers and minorities.”
She also dismissed criticism largely from Republicans that high unemployment insurance payouts are discouraging people from returning to work.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by Heather Timmons; editing by Jonathan Oatis)