Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinFormer Treasury secretaries tried to resolve debt limit impasse in talks with McConnell, Yellen: report Menendez, Rubio ask Yellen to probe meatpacker JBS The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan MORE on Monday encouraged companies not to lay off workers, saying small businesses should quickly be able to get loans to provide them with more liquidity.
"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," Mnuchin said in a phone interview with CNBC's Jim Cramer.
Mnuchin's comments come as Democrats and Republicans are negotiating a stimulus package in response to the coronavirus. Many businesses have been closing or scaling back in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.
One portion of the package is expected to involve aid for small businesses. Mnuchin said that there is bipartisan support for providing loans to small businesses that would be forgiven as long as the companies hire back or retain their workers.
"We want to make sure that small businesses — this represents about 50 percent of the private economy — keeps workers employed," Mnuchin said. "So when the president is ready to open up this economy again and we've killed this virus, workers are in place. And it's no fault of theirs. They're getting paid."
Another portion of the package is expected to be rebate checks to households. Mnuchin said he's been working with the IRS on direct deposits and expects that that money — over $3,000 for a family of four — would be in people's bank accounts in two to three weeks.
Mnuchin pressed for quick action on legislation, saying "we need to get this thing passed today."
Mnuchin also spoke about the ongoing efforts on negotiating a stimulus package in a phone interview Monday on Fox Business Network.
A major sticking point is that Senate Republicans have proposed $500 billion for the Treasury Department to expand a Federal Reserve fund to provide loans to industries such as airlines and hotel chains that have been particularly hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats argue that Mnuchin would have too much latitude over how to distribute the aid and that the companies wouldn't be required to retain workers to get the relief.
In his Fox Business interview, Mnuchin defended this proposal, saying "it is not a slush fund."
Mnuchin also said that the stimulus package is designed to help the U.S. economy for a 10- to 12-week period. He said he hopes that the virus is killed in that time frame or a shorter one.
"This legislation prepares us for what I would say the 10- to 12-week period," he said. "But I hope that we don't need to last that long. And for whatever reason this turns out that it's going to last longer, we'll go back to Congress."