The Federal Reserve and banks are both struggling to meet a growing demand for electronic money and a looming risk of losing access to that cash.
But the challenges facing banks are different.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said on Thursday it would buy about $2.6 billion in assets to help banks recover from a financial crisis that sent many banks to the brink of collapse.
“In the event that we were to lose access to these funds, the risks to the financial system would be substantially greater than those posed by any other system,” the bank said in a statement.
The Fed and other regulators have tried to make sure that banks don’t lose access, arguing that the FDIC would be better able to take on risk in the event of a crisis than the Fed or the Treasury.
But the banks themselves have faced mounting challenges as the demand for digital money has exploded.
The amount of money circulating on the open market has grown more than 10-fold since 2010.
The average price for an ounce of gold has nearly tripled since 2014.
Banks have struggled to meet this demand as the economy has stagnated, with the unemployment rate at 4.5 percent, down from a peak of nearly 10 percent in the early 2000s.
In March, the Federal Reserve lowered its key interest rate target for the economy from 1 percent to 1.75 percent.
The bank said it was aiming for an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent and an inflation rate of 2.5 to 2.75 percentage points.
But it has warned that higher interest rates could force banks to cut jobs and raise rates.
The Fed has also said it would consider lowering its benchmark interest rate, which it has been targeting for about a year.
The unemployment rate is currently 4.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the Fed has been under pressure from lawmakers to boost its $85 billion a month in purchases of mortgage-backed securities that it has long considered too risky to be used for commercial banks.
A group of House lawmakers and regulators have called for the Fed to buy $10 billion of these securities a month, to be distributed to banks.
The lawmakers said the purchases are a better way to help the banks that are under increasing pressure from the economic downturn and are not helping the banks struggling to absorb the losses from the collapse of their private-equity funds.
If the Fed wants to maintain its rate of purchases, it should be using its ability to buy securities as a tool to reduce the risk that the Fed can no longer guarantee the availability of those securities, said Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y. “The only way it can do that is to raise the level of reserves.
The other way is to reduce borrowing costs.”
Another bill introduced in the House would provide $1 billion in direct subsidies to banks for the purpose of buying mortgage-linked securities.
That money would be used to subsidize purchases of the securities from commercial banks, rather than the FDICS.
The bill also would provide loans to help some banks to purchase bonds from private-fund managers that hold those securities.
Critics say the legislation would create a situation in which banks that need additional money to cover their losses would have to borrow from the Fed, which would then have to repay that money to the banks.