Although 2020 was undeniably a year of immense challenges, it was also a year of inspiration. Americans everywhere displayed extraordinary creativity, resilience, and compassion. That was no different at the Philadelphia Fed — and throughout the entire Federal Reserve System — where 2020 was a year for us to respond with agility, innovation, and boldness. Throughout 2020, working in unprecedented circumstances, we remained committed to helping the people and communities of the Third District and the country thrive and to protecting the integrity of the financial system.
I have never been prouder of the Philadelphia Fed and our people. I cannot say enough about the dedication and strength of our Federal Reserve staff, particularly our onsite essential workers, about which you will read more in First Vice President James Narron’s letter and throughout this report.
The coronavirus pandemic required all Americans to change their plans and routines, almost on a dime. In these pages, you’ll read how at the Philadelphia Fed, we did just that, pivoting to respond to rapidly changing circumstances while never losing sight of our core mission.
You’ll read about how our supervision and regulation team rallied to ensure the integrity of the financial system by supporting community banks as they provided critical lifelines to businesses and communities navigating the pandemic’s disruptions.
Research is central to what we do; you can’t solve a problem unless it’s accurately diagnosed. And so, as the pandemic began to affect business activity and state governors ordered shutdowns, our researchers created the weekly COVID-19 Business Outlook Survey of firms in the Third District and launched one of the first national surveys to gauge how consumers were faring. Other studies looked into strained state budgets, disruptions in markets, and how the pandemic was impacting communities.
Throughout the pandemic, the consumer survey and our other research documented the magnitude of shocks to employment and income — and the important fact that those shocks were not distributed equally across the population. Moreover, our researchers sought not only to understand and explain the pandemic’s impacts but also to find ways to emerge with a stronger and more inclusive economy.
Realizing we needed to get our research in the hands of those who needed it most, we reimagined our Reinventing Our Communities conference, which focused on planning for equity in the recovery from the pandemic. We also offered, among others, sessions looking at the effects on rural parts of the Third District; events focusing on housing and eviction, childcare, and jobs and automation; and roundtables with officials at the state and local levels.
In a new and challenging virtual environment, our Bank continued its robust tradition of openness and outreach. We unveiled a new brand identity and a powerful new website, reimagined to better provide important data and information to the communities we serve.
As I write this in the spring of 2021, a sense of optimism and hope is palpable as coronavirus cases decline and the economy continues to reopen. Still, there is great uncertainty about what the year ahead will bring. What is not uncertain is this: our unwavering commitment to the Federal Reserve’s mission of fostering thriving communities and a strong economy that ensure opportunity and mobility for all people.