Leaning on his experience as a restaurant owner, CNBC's Jim Cramer said Friday the U.S. government has an obligation to aid small businesses that are shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I had a business that was closed. It was doing great, and then one day I learned I was closed," Cramer said on "Squawk on the Street." "You better help."
Cramer owns Bar San Miguel and co-owns The Longshoreman. Both are in Brooklyn, New York.
The "Mad Money" host's comments Friday came on the launch day of a $350 billion government program to help small business owners who are trying to navigate the economic shock from the coronavirus.
The program, created as part of the $2 trillion economic relief package passed last month, creates potentially forgivable loans for small businesses.
The Small Business Administration is partnering with banks and other financial institutions such as credit unions to dole out the loans — portions of which can be forgiven if they are used for expenses such as payroll.
There is a lot of uncertainty facing the program on its first day, both for lenders and potential borrowers.
Bank of America became the first major U.S. bank to say its loan portal was up and running, but others such as Wells Fargo and Citigroup were not accepting applications as of Friday morning. JPMorgan Chase' small business portal became available a little after 1 p.m.
Despite the challenging start for the loan program, Cramer said small business owners who are thinking of permanently closing their business should "rethink their plan."
He said he understands the confusion around how, exactly, to access the loans, but he advised small business owners to start by calling their banker or a community bank.
Cramer also mentioned the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, which was amended during the COVID-19 crisis and includes what is essentially a $10,000 grant.
"This is a $10,000 grant that makes it so you're nuts not to keep your business open. I'm not kidding. You got to keep your business open," Cramer said.
He said he also acknowledges he has the financial means to weather the storm from the coronavirus better than most restaurant owners. "I have the money to be able to do it. I'm lucky. I'm blessed," he said.
However, the burden of assisting all small business owners is on the government, Cramer said.
"These people have businesses, and they were closed by the government, for heaven's sake, so the government has to do something. It's only right," Cramer said.
"That's what they need to do because this is the base. Not President Trump's base. But the base of America," he added.