Congress Flirts With Digital Dollar; Crypto’s Hiring Boom

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DIGITAL DOLLAR CONSIDERED

The crypto community was abuzz Monday night when a leaked draft of the economic stimulus bill proposed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi introduced a “digital dollar” as a way to deliver payments directly to U.S. citizens. The next day, the same language surfaced in a Senate bill introduced by Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown. The concept would have required the Federal Reserve’s member banks to open and maintain digital dollar wallets for all customers.

The digital dollar didn’t make it into the final stimulus package passed by Congress by the end of the week, but the flirtations signaled that the U.S. has officially entered an increasingly heated race between advanced projects at several central banks around the world to be the first to issue this new kind of currency. A project managed by the Hyperledger consortium called eThaler that aims to create a central bank digital currency on the Ethereum blockchain suddenly took on more importance.

“That’s a significant step, and I argue that such crisis situations always produce new ideas, and acceptance of new ideas, that will live on long after the coronavirus has burned through the world,” Vipin Bharathan, chair of the Hyperledger identity working group, said at a meeting this week.

CRYPTO MARKETS

The digital dollar murmurs put a charge in bitcoin Monday, as prices rose 15% in a 24-hour period, peaking just short of $7,000. The momentum died down as bitcoin traded in a narrow band the rest of the week, though the $2 trillion stimulus package has made some industry veterans bullish for cryptocurrencies, expecting cash to decline in value with trillions about to get pumped into circulation.

Galaxy Digital CEO Mike Novogratz told CNBC, “If at the end of the year bitcoin’s not a lot higher, I’m going to scratch my head and say, ‘Look, what the heck is going on?‘” And Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao tweeted that “as we get used to talking about trillions,” a $2 trillion market cap for bitcoin that would price one bitcoin at $100,000 is “not such a hard number to imagine now, right?”

BLOCKCHAIN STARTUPS: WE’RE HIRING

Overall U.S. unemployment claims surged to a record 3.3 million last week, but some of those laid off workers may be able to find work in blockchain. San Francisco-based exchange Kraken is adding 67 employees to its existing team of 800, needing to meet increased demand. The proportion of cryptocurrency jobs submitted to Indeed.com rose 3% between December 2019 and February 2020.

RUSSIA MOVES TOWARD CRYPTO BAN

The world’s largest country is about to implement a ban on issuing and selling cryptocurrencies. Russia’s central bank head of legal told Russian news agency Interfax that the bill is expected to be passed this spring, echoing China’s similarly tough stance on crypto trading. Russian citizens still won’t be prohibited from owning crypto if it’s acquired in a country where trading is legal.

COVID-19 FUNDRAISING

Binance Charity Foundation launched an initiative called Crypto Against COVID Wednesday morning, seeking to raise $4 million that will primarily go toward medical supplies for countries impacted by coronavirus. The foundation is matching all donations up to that $4 million goal, and donations can be made using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

ELSEWHERE

Gold-Backed Stablecoins Race to Keep Up With Crisis-Driven Demand [CoinDesk]

Australian Securities Exchange Delays Switch to Blockchain Due to COVID-19 [Cointelegraph]

Bitcoin Mining Difficulty Posts Second-Biggest Percentage Drop in Its History [CoinDesk]

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