The government’s emergency Paycheck Protection Program saved roughly 30 to 35 million jobs by doling out loans to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon told NBC's Stephanie Ruhle.
“I'm going to give credit to [Treasury Secretary] Steven Mnuchin, [Federal Reserve Chair] Jerome Powell, the administration, and the Democrats and Republicans in Congress,” Dimon said. “Who would have thought they could move that quick? And you can argue with PPP, and it's been redesigned a couple times — but they moved very quickly.”
PPP was marketed as a lifeline for struggling small businesses forced to close in order to halt the spread of the coronavirus. But the program’s focus on covering payroll costs through the forgivable loans raised questions about how larger companies with higher payrolls benefited more from loans compared to smaller businesses with a smaller number of employees, and minority-owned businesses.
Dimon told NBC News that there should be an extension of the program for “folks who need the restart money or the ones who didn't get it in the first go-round,” including business owners of color.
“A lot of news outlets are saying that, you know, minority businesses got much less than they actually needed,” he said.
Economists say the pandemic has amplified the wealth gap and exacerbated inequalities, with lower-income workers most likely to lose their job.
"Those least able to bear the burden have been the most affected," Fed Chair Powell said after last month's monetary policy meeting. "In particular, the rise in joblessness has been especially severe for lower-wage workers, for women, and for African Americans and Hispanics. This reversal of economic fortune has upended many lives and created great uncertainty about the future."
Dimon, along with 26 other CEOs across the country — including Google's Sundar Pichai, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and Microsoft's Satya Nadella — has launched an initiative to bridge the racial gap in business and promote economic prosperity "no matter the zip code."
The New York Jobs CEO Council is a partnership with the Department of Education, local government, and community nonprofits that plans to train and hire 100,000 traditionally underserved New Yorkers by 2030. The initiative will support student learning, connect participants with career resources and equip students with the skills they need for the shifting workplace of the future.
"A lot of companies are doing great individual things, but they're isolated," Dimon told Stephanie Ruhle in an interview that aired on NBC's "TODAY" show on Tuesday. "We're hoping this is a force multiplier, that it's an exponential."
Dimon, who is also chairman of the nonprofit Business Roundtable and served on President Donald Trump's now-disbanded Strategic and Policy forum, told NBC News that an economic recession resulting from the coronavirus is likely to come late this year or early next year.
“We're in a recession, but you’re going to have a delayed effect of seeing the normal effects of recession,” he said, referring to the government's fiscal stimulus packages and the series of emergency actions put in place by the Federal Reserve. “But it will eventually affect incomes.”
The longer the country stays closed for business, the greater the economic impact on the country, Dimon said, adding that he believes the country can ask people to return to work safely.
“We can't be doing this a year from now and think that it won't cause devastation in the economy,” he said. “The health effects, negative health effects of that in terms of depression and drugs can be really bad.”
He said the government has to do more for small businesses and unemployment insurance for people out of work to get the country through the next three to six months.
“There's going to be some scar tissue from this one, but we have a chance to recover,” he said. “We're not going to jeopardize our people," he said of his employees. "We're giving a lot of flexibility, particularly if schools are not opening….But we'll navigate through it.”
Dimon said he is sympathetic toward families where parents are asked to go back to work while their children need to continue to go to school virtually in the absence of any open community centers to work. He said people in this situation need “special help” such as unemployment insurance. JPMorgan may offer some childcare benefits for its 240,000 employees, he added.
"Most of the companies I know are trying to help their employees through this. Most of them," he said. "They can't all do that, but most of them are trying.”