June 5 (Reuters) - U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell spoke on an almost daily basis with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in April as the two officials scrambled to erect programs to soften the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, Fed records released Friday showed.
Powell and Mnuchin conducted 21 phone calls during the month, which now appears to have been the worst period for the economy, the readout of Powell’s calendar indicated.
That was nearly twice the number of meetings or calls with Mnuchin as Powell had in March, when the outbreak first threw the economy into a tailspin and forced the Fed to cut interest rates to near zero and, in concert with the Treasury, roll out nearly a dozen emergency support programs.
In addition, Powell held 14 calls with key U.S. lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in their first discussion since December.
He also met twice with Larry Fink, chief executive of BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest asset management company, which the Fed hired to advise on some of its emergency facilities.
For the second month in a row, Powell also met with a health expert. On April 13, he had a 90-minute COVID-19 briefing from unidentified officials with Johns Hopkins University, which has emerged as one of the main U.S. resources for tracking the course of the pandemic.
Powell has repeatedly said any economic recovery will hinge on success in battling a disease that has sickened nearly 1.9 million Americans and killed more than 108,000. Not long after that meeting, optimism among Powell and other Fed officials for a fast recovery faded, although it is not clear that the “Johns Hopkins COVID briefing” fed into that change of tone. (Reporting by Dan Burns; editing by Jonathan Oatis)