Gary Cohn says lawmakers should 'throw as much money as you can' at coronavirus economic crisis

Gary Cohn
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Gary Cohn, once a top aide to President Donald Trump, told CNBC Wednesday that the federal government should go as far as it can to rescue the economy from collapse due to the coronavirus outbreak and that it's not possible to go too far.

"You cannot overreact in this situation," said Cohn, who served as chief economic advisor from 2017-2018. "The job of the executive office and the job of all of Congress right now is to act decisively and act quickly and throw as much money as you can at the situation."

Cohn made the comments during a CNBC Town Hall on Wednesday.

Overnight, the White House and Senate came to terms on a $2 trillion stimulus bill to stunt the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, though the legislation continues to face some opposition in the chamber. 

In the legislation, lawmakers carved out $500 billion for the Treasury Department to direct loans, loan guarantees and cash grants to distressed corporations. It also includes a $350 billion program to fund small businesses to prevent layoffs as the economy slides into a downturn. Wall Street has fallen into a deep bear market as investors contemplate the impact that "stay-at-home" and quarantine orders across the country could affect commerce.

As for citizens, officials have proposed distributing cash payments to help blunt the impact of wide-spread layoffs. If approved, individuals could get $1,200 and married couples $2,400, alongside $500 per child. The plan comes with income restrictions.

"Time is of the essence" and there's no time to have people line up at banks, the former Goldman Sachs president said during the discussion.

"This is about getting money to hardworking people tomorrow," Cohn said, "and I don't care if we go to banks, and banks lend against it, or if we go to the big payroll services and tell them to make payroll tomorrow because [the payroll companies] know exactly who they're going to pay it to."

Corporations, particularly those in the travel industry, are seeking government aid in the form of both loans and cash grants to weather lost business due to the fast-spreading disease. Airlines, cruise lines and hotels are in the eye of the storm after a large swaths of consumers and companies have canceled vacations, business trips and conferences.

Public health officials around the globe have been laboring to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the deadly COVID-19 disease. The illness has been contracted by almost 467,600 people and killed more than 21,000 around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Government leaders in the U.S. have struggled to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has hit New York state particularly hard along with California, New Jersey and Washington state.

Do not make the mistake of underspending: Gary Cohn's advice to Trump
Do not make the mistake of underspending: Gary Cohn's advice to Trump