Fed's Evans says vulnerable workers affected by crisis face highly uncertain future

FILE PHOTO: Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans looks on during the Global Interdependence Center Members Delegation Event in Mexico City, Mexico, February 27, 2020. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic is falling hardest on the most vulnerable workers, and policymakers need to coordinate to come up with creative policies to help people make it through the uniquely painful downturn, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Evans said on Monday.

“This recession is unique in its swiftness severity and scope,” Evans said in opening remarks for an online forum organized by the Chicago Fed.

“Tragically, the most affected are our most vulnerable neighbors - those who don’t enjoy paid sick leave, can’t work from home or don’t have much cushion in their savings accounts. Their future is highly uncertain and will require new policies to help them through this difficult transition.”

Evans said that reports of businesses that rushed to reopen without enough safety measures are contributing to a resurgence in infections and hurting the economy by delaying the “return to normal.” Policymakers from the local level to the federal level need to work together to lead to lasting progress, he said.

However, even after the virus subsides, some businesses will have shut down permanently and some unemployed Americans will need assistance with finding find new jobs. Economic policies also need to be targeted to help the workers in racial groups that were struggling before the downturn, Evans said.

“Even when the economy was stronger, systemic racism and other barriers limited opportunities for too many people,” he said. “Simply returning to where we were in February is not enough to meet this generation’s challenge.”

Reporting by Jonnelle Marte; Editing by Marguerita Choy