Restrictions in Paycheck Protection Based Upon Criminal Record

On Behalf of | May 1, 2020 | Firm News

Under the new Paycheck Protection Program, small business applicants can obtain forgivable loans to make payroll and other other qualified expenses, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, consideration of an applicant’s prior criminal record is front and center on the application forms. Questions five and six on the forms serve to disqualify a person, who has been convicted of any felony offense within the past five years, from receiving a federal loan to pay workers. There is no consideration given to the nature and circumstances of the crime, or the sincerity of the applicant’s rehabilitation. The program also disqualifies someone who was placed on parole or supervised release, for a felony within the last five years. This means, that even people who have served all of their time in prison, and possibly a significant period of post-prison supervision, are also disqualified from participation in the Paycheck Protection Program. In fact, if within the last five years a person has been merely accused of a felony, and then participated in a pre-trial diversion program, without conviction of a crime, that person could also be denied desperately needed financial support offered by this program. This decision by the Small Business Administration runs afoul of the principle of supporting second chances for people who have been in the criminal justice system. For many people with criminal records, rejection and fear of rejection, are common experiences. These folks have been told “no” before – by employers, banks, colleges and others. Along they way, many of them have learned from their past mistakes, cultivated resilience and determination, and built small businesses. They deserve our support and the support of the Small Business Administration, as they struggle to keep their lights on and workers employed. The bottom line is that COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate among who it harms, and we shouldn’t discriminate among those we help.