Mad Money

Nancy Pelosi says it's unclear when US economy can reopen — 'We could have a depression'

Key Points
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi steered clear of offering a timeline to open the U.S. economy, saying hopefully it'll be "soon."
  • "This is an era of entrepreneurship like none we've ever seen before because of the challenge to small businesses," she said of the coronavirus pandemic's effect.
  • "We could have a depression because so many people are out of work, and that's why we have to get the system really energized and working," she said in a "Mad Money" interview.
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Nancy Pelosi say it is uncertain when America can reopen for business

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday told CNBC's Jim Cramer it's not clear when America could reopen for business, despite some optimism from the White House that it could happen next month.

When asked if shops could open up in May, she decided against offering a hopeful timeline.

"This is an era of entrepreneurship like none we've ever seen before because of the challenge to small businesses," she said in a "Mad Money" interview. "Let's recognize what that is — that optimism is — to America, but I don't think anybody can tell you a date unless we just take it a week at a time. But let's be hopeful that it's soon."

Earlier that day on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street," Cramer posed the same question to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who said he believed it is possible to get the economy rolling again as soon as May. The Trump administration is currently making sure businesses "have the liquidity that they need to operate their business in the interim," he said.

The U.S. economy was effectively put on hold last month as the federal and state governments hunkered down on the coronavirus epidemic by closing nonessential businesses and ordering social distancing mandates. The moves were made to slow the infection rate.

The closure of bars and shopping malls, among other businesses, however, has pushed more than 16 million Americans to file for unemployment claims in the past three weeks and lawmakers to pass a series of bills to combat the economic effect of the health crisis. The stock market, which was putting in record highs, has since been toiling in bear market territory.

The White House is reportedly mulling a second coronavirus task force to focus on the economic damage of the pandemic. Investors have worried that the prolonged shutdown could push the economy into a recession or worse.

"We could have a depression because so many people are out of work, and that's why we have to get the system really energized and working," Pelosi said in the interview. "Let's get out those unemployment checks. Let's get out those direct payments. Let's get these loans freed up."

The direct payments of up to $1,200 for some Americans that Pelosi referred to are a part of the historic $2.2 trillion economic relief package that President Donald Trump signed into law nearly two weeks ago. The stimulus program also includes rescue money for small businesses and corporations.

Despite her reservations about predicting when society could resume some sense of normalcy, Pelosi said she was optimistic that Democratic and Republican lawmakers can continue to work in a bipartisan fashion.

"We should get more credit for working together," she said.

To get the economy back humming, Pelosi said, the government needs to focus on expanding coronavirus testing and other efforts to address the health crisis, including developing treatments, before making economic progress. She added that the shelter-in-place order in her home state of California is making a "very big difference."

"We're flying blind without [widespread testing], and we're long overdue," the Democratic lawmaker said. "We still have to do [testing] in order for us to have an idea of the extent of this terrible disease, but also so that we have data, collection of racial data, so that we know how this is affecting different communities."

VIDEO11:3611:36
Nancy Pelosi on negotiating new relief measures, strategies to reopen businesses

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