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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on February 7.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on February 7. CNN

In her first interview on CNN since her confirmation, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the benefits of the Biden administration’s Covid-19 relief bill would outweigh the risks — adding that if the bill did pass, the US could get back to full employment next year.

Asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper for a timeline, Yellen said, “Well I would expect that if this package is passed that we’d go back to full employment next year.”

Yellen also responded to criticism from Larry Summers, a former Obama official, that this bill could create more inflation in the country, saying that’s something the administration can manage. 

“My predecessor, you know, has indicated that there’s a chance that this will cause inflation to rise. And that’s also a risk that we have to consider,” she said. Yellen said she’s spent many years studying inflation and that the country has the tools to deal with it if “that risk materializes.”

“The economic challenge and tremendous suffering in the country, we’ve got to address that, that’s the biggest risk,” she added.

On the money she’s made giving speeches — some at the hedge funds that bailed out some Gamestop short stock sellers — Yellen said she will abide by her own ethics agreement. 

“Well, I have an agreement that I signed, carefully considered whether or not there could be conflicts of interests. I will religious adhere to that agreement,” she said, adding that she has and will continue to consult with ethics lawyers at the Treasury Department every step of the way.

The Treasury Secretary would not outright answer a question from Tapper on whether Biden is prepared to sign a bill that has no bipartisan support, but she did make a case against lowering who qualifies for the direct payments too low, saying both she and Biden believe middle class families deserve help.

“But if you think about an elementary school teacher or policeman making $60,000 a year and faced with children who are out of school and people who may have had to withdraw from the labor force in order to take care of them and many extra burdens, he thinks, and I certainly agree, that it’s appropriate for people there to get support,” she said. “So, the exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined, but struggling middle class families need help, too.”

And on equal pay, Yellen said she hopes after she’s done, women will be paid equally for equal work.

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