By Nick Timiraos 

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday it would reduce the rates it charges cities and states seeking short-term loans from an emergency lending program.

Changes to the program must be agreed upon by the Treasury Department, which has approved $35 billion to cover losses on up to $500 billion in loans extended by the Fed.

Municipal bond strategists and some Democratic lawmakers have expressed disappointment in recent weeks over the degree to which the Fed positioned the program as a backstop.

With Tuesday's changes, the Fed will reduce by 0.5 percentage point the interest-rate spread on tax-exempt notes, and it will also reduce the amount by which rates for taxable notes are adjusted relative to tax-exempt notes.

The Fed has repeatedly broadened the number of local governments eligible for the lending program to allow more than 300 municipal issuers. So far, the Fed has purchased only one such note.

The state of Illinois sold $1.2 billion of debt to the central bank in June at a rate more than 1 percentage point below the rate at which it was previously able to access markets in May.

Write to Nick Timiraos at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 11, 2020 17:36 ET (21:36 GMT)

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