CNBC transcript: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks with CNBC’s Jim Cramer on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” today on the coronavirus relief deal.
WHEN: Today, Monday, March 23, 2020
WHERE: CNBC’s “Squawk Box”
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The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC interview with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and CNBC’s Jim Cramer on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” (M-F 6AM – 9AM) today, Monday, March 23rd. The following is a link to video of the interview on CNBC.com:
All references must be sourced to CNBC
JIM CRAMER: Thank you so much, Andrew. Mr. Secretary, are you with us?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: I am, Jim. I want to say, I’m the second most special guest.
JIM CRAMER: Alright. Let’s not put a pecking order. We’ve got to get right to it. How far apart are we?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: We -- we -- I think we're very close. So, we need to get this deal done today. It’s very important, as you can see, Jim. We announced overnight, with the Fed, some very important actions supporting the asset-backed markets, supporting the corporate bond market—primary and secondary. We’re using some of the funds we have. But we need Congress to approve additional funds today, so that we can move forward and support American workers in the American economy. Okay.
JIM CRAMER: Okay. So, let’s be sure about this. Because when I listen to that agenda, let’s say I were Senator Schumer, I would say, look at that corporate bonds, private, this and that. How about just workers-- 500 and under, small business. What are you going to do?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: We have enormous bipartisan support on most of this bill – I actually would say all of this bill. And in particular the small businesses, let me be very clear, Jim, we’re providing immediate loans to small businesses. We are working with the SBA, we’ll make sure banks can immediately lend money to companies that are 500 and less that will cover two weeks of payroll and some overhead as long as those companies hire back their workers or keep their workers. And at the end of that period, we will forgive those loans entirely. So, we want to make sure small businesses, this represents about 50% of the private economy, keeps workers employed. So, when the President is open up to ready this economy again, and we’ve killed this virus, workers are in place. And it’s no fault of theirs, they’re getting paid.
JIM CRAMER: Okay, so we know some industries have more workers than others. The biggest in the country, 51 million, is retail. What do we do?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Jim, a lot of that retail is small businesses. You know, a lot of small stores in these malls that are closed. All those small businesses will be able to get these loans fast. And large businesses, I expect many of these large businesses will continue to pay workers. And those large businesses that need liquidity will be able to access the facilities that we’re setting up with the Federal Reserve.
JIM CRAMER: If you get agreement today, can people get their money tomorrow, so they don’t lay off people?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Well, I don’t know about tomorrow, Jim, but I would say they shouldn’t lay people off. And I would say that within the next week, we will have a program up and running that small businesses can go into banks easily in a fast track basis and get that cash flow. And I can tell you, I already have the IRS working on direct deposits for hard-working Americans. And I expect that that money will be out in the next two to three weeks in people’s checking accounts or savings accounts. It’s a massive amount –
JIM CRAMER: Right. What kind of numbers, is there a cutoff? If I make 120,000, do I get anything? If I make 40,000, do I get anything?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Jim, it’s a little bit over $3,000 for a family of four, there’s some mechanisms and phaseouts and things like that, so this doesn’t – with people. But this is a massive amount of liquidity, you can think of this as bridge loans to American workers as we set up the other programs. So, the President is fully determined. We are using all our tools to pump massive amounts of liquidity, working with the Federal Reserve to support the U.S. economy through unprecedented situations.
JIM CRAMER: You know savings mean everything to American workers can they access their money in 401(k), IRA right now without penalties?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Jim, we have in the legislation a bunch of changes that can help people with 401(k)s and we’re moving certain rules when people are forced to take money out and other things. So, and that has huge bipartisan support and those types of things in the bill.
JIM CRAMER: Why is there such brinkmanship then? Because it does seem like that there has got to be, given the fact you are so focused on the workers, an agreement. I cannot believe that Speaker Pelosi is against this, and I have a hard time believing that Senator Schumer is against it. You mentioned workers six more times than you mentioned the corporations.
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Jim, I’m on my way up to the Senate now to meet with Mitch McConnell to review exactly where we are with his team and then meet with Senator Schumer. And what I can tell you is that we need to get this thing passed today. So, we are going to put aside partisan politics. Mitch has done a great job on bringing together everybody. We were there all day yesterday. And my message is: this needs to get passed today.
JIM CRAMER: Mr. Secretary, how do we create demand? I keep hearing supply for workers. What gets people in the stores, in the restaurants if we’re not allowed to?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Jim, the President is getting great advice from all the medical professionals. He is determined that we will kill this virus. What I can tell you is that as soon as the President determines that we can reopen this economy, I think you are going to see massive pent-up demand. As long as we keep workers in place so businesses can reopen when they get the green light, with this type of liquidity, I think you are going to see a big pick up. Let me comment, you know, this bill is about $2 trillion at this point on top of that, it gives us $500 billion that we can leverage with the Federal Reserve for over another $4 trillion. That’s $6 trillion in the economy. I’ve already put another 500 billion in the economy as a result of delaying Tax Day. So, this is a massive amount of liquidity to support American workers and businesses.
JIM CRAMER: Mr. Secretary. Hello?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Yes, Jim. Yes.
JIM CRAMER: You need congressional approval for this, I think America would be happy –
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Hold on.
JIM CRAMER: What?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: I’m sorry. Jim, can you hear me?
JIM CRAMER: Yeah. You need congressional approval can we do $500 billion 50-year, the American people consider this a war bond, they would do it, do it patriotically, we’re ready for it, can you get it?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Jim, we have some technology issues that we’re working on to be able to issue 50 and 100-year bonds. So, I want to make sure we don’t take our eye off what the major issue is here now. We will be issuing a lot of 30-years. We’ve already announced we will be issuing 20 years. We want to focus putting money into the economy right now fortunately with low-interest rates we’ll be doing lots of long-term financing to make sure we lock this in at low costs to the American public.
JIM CRAMER: The word I know from the Fed is no issues with liquidity. It’s not -- it’s not a credit crisis. Can you assure us there will be plenty of liquidity when this market opens – it’s 8:56. The Americans want to know, listen, you know, it’s not just our job, our savings are not going to dissipate or be destroyed?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Jim, we’re working with the Fed in an unprecedented fashion. I forget the number of -- I think we’re up to kind of ten different through-holds. I signed five letters last night, two of which were modifying existing programs. Three were new programs. We do have limited amounts of money we’re using before Congress passes this bill, so we’re not waiting on Congress. The announcement we made with the Fed this morning are for about 300 billion. And as soon as Congress gives us the authority, we’ll be increasing the facilities substantially. And we will be rolling out new facilities. So, this is an urgent situation for Congress to pass this, but we are ready and we are working with the Fed to provide unprecedented liquidity to support American business and American workers.
JIM CRAMER: I know the President wants this deal done. Can he help get it done and can we get it done this morning?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: I hope we can get it done this morning. I’ve been speaking with the President around-the-clock. We got off the phone at 12:30 last night. I’ll be calling him shortly.
JIM CRAMER: It sounds to me as if this can get done. What is the one thing that Democrats are saying that you’re not giving them, and they won’t give in on?
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Jim, I think -- I’m not going to get into the negotiating issues on the phone. But I’m determined, I know Mitch McConnell is determined. We need to get this thing done today.
JIM CRAMER: Go get it done. I know you have to get it done.
STEVEN MNUCHIN: Thanks, Jim. Bye.
JIM CRAMER: Totally appreciate it. Back to the gang before we turn it over.