Amazon CEO Andy Jassy urged Congress on Tuesday to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, warning that a failure to address the issue could result in a hit to consumer confidence.
“I think it’s scary for consumer confidence and for confidence in U.S. businesses and potential credit ratings if we don’t make sure that we raise that debt ceiling,” Jassy added.
The debt ceiling is a cap set by Congress on how much the government can borrow in order to pay its debts. Once the ceiling is reached, lawmakers must raise or suspend the ceiling before the Treasury Department can issue more debt.
A two-year suspension of the debt ceiling that was passed in 2019 expired at the end of July. In August, the Treasury Department invoked “extraordinary measures” to conserve cash.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week warned the U.S. has until some point in October before the department exhausts its extended efforts to prevent what would be a historic default on U.S. debt.
Congress is expected to address the issue this week after returning from its August recess.
“I know that’s going to be debated in Washington, but I hope we take care of it sooner than later in Congress,” Jassy said.
The debt ceiling issue comes after the U.S. government has “had to spend at unprecedented levels to keep our citizens safe” amid the coronavirus pandemic, Jassy said.
Jassy acknowledged that Amazon took on a greater role for many Americans during Covid-19 lockdowns. Executives at Amazon realized that “whatever role Amazon plays in the world” was going to be heightened by the pandemic, as many physical stores remained shuttered, Jassy said.
“We feel like we experienced probably two to three years of growth in 18 months,” Jassy said. “You couldn’t probably responsibly plan for a pandemic or the amount of capacity that’s needed.”
Jassy said he expects e-commerce to continue to claim a growing share of overall retail sales.
Amazon and other tech giants were among the first companies to require their employees to begin working from home in early 2020. The evolving nature of the pandemic has made it hard to predict when to start bringing employees back to the office, Jassy said.
Amazon last month pushed back its return-to-work plans to January 2022, while other companies, such as Microsoft, have indefinitely postponed their office reopenings.
Which employees will return to the office is dependent on job role and function, Jassy said. For example, while engineers may be better suited to work effectively on their own, some jobs require collaboration, he said.
“We have the belief that we’re going to have a lot of people in the offices,” Jassy said. “And as I said, I don’t know if it’ll be every day. I think people will be in a meaningful amount over time as they get more comfortable coming back to work.”