A dozen civil rights and advocacy organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, have asked Congress to take immediate action to remove barriers based on arrest or conviction history for small business owners seeking COVID-19 federal relief, says the Collateral Consequences Resource Center.
The groups say the prohibition for those with many arrest or conviction records under the new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “means that there is no opportunity for an individual determination that considers factors such as rehabilitation, the circumstances of the conviction/disposition, or whether the nature of the underlying crime might adversely affect the ability to properly utilize the loan.”
Under the coronavirus stimulus act signed by President Donald Trump last month, some $376 billion was set aside for relief for “American workers and small businesses.”
In its announcement of the funding program, the Small Business Administration (SBA) did not specify whether existing rules blocking help to those who did not demonstrate “good character,” including those with criminal records, would be waived. The SBA did not respond to queries from The Crime Report.
Because one in three Americans have some sort of criminal record, and those with records have an unemployment rate five times higher than average, “these restrictions will have a significant and detrimental impact on individuals, families, and communities,” the protesting groups said..
The rules “will have a particularly harsh effect on minority business owners and employees who are disproportionately affected by the criminal legal system as a result of institutional discrimination,” the organizations say.
The groups contend that the rules relating to criminal records issued so far are “unnecessary and confusing” and that no law requires the SBA to disqualify people categorically from loan programs based on arrest or conviction records.
The groups argue that because the relief programs are “trying to save the economy by keeping people employed … eligibility requirements should be relaxed in these circumstances, not heightened as SBA proposes.”
The organizations say the restrictions “will have a disparate impact on minority business owners and employees, who are disproportionately affected by the criminal legal system as a result of institutional discrimination.”