Our public comment opposing new criminal record restrictions for COVID-19 recovery loans to small businesses

May 15, 2020–As the nation began to take on the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress authorized $350 bullion in loans and grants administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to support small businesses that have lost revenue. It soon became apparent that business owners with criminal histories–in some cases, only consisting of arrests without conviction–face barriers when they try access this aid. We joined civil rights organizations across the country to advocate for Congress and the SBA to remove these arbitrary restrictions.

On April 15, the Small Business Association released their interim final rule governing the provision of forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a key component of the CARES Act.  This rule contained provisions that made many business owners ineligible for PPP loans based on arrest and conviction history. These discriminatory restrictions are unwarranted and hamper economic recovery in communities across the country. On May 15, we helped draft a joint public comment signed by civil rights organizations across the country, detailing our concerns with these new restrictions.

“These requirements are needlessly restrictive and unfairly discriminatory and jeopardize thousands of local communities and employees who rely upon these businesses and their owners for employment and services,” the comment reads. “The intention of the emergency relief programs authorized by the CARES Act is to sustain small businesses that are trying to save the economy by keeping people employed. Eligibility requirements should be relaxed in these circumstances, not heightened as SBA proposes.”

Read the full comment here.

The public comment was signed by the following civil rights organizations, located across the country.

American Civil Liberties Union
Center for Law and Social Policy
Church of Scientology, National Affairs Office
Coalition for Juvenile Justice
Collateral Consequences Resource Center
College and Community Fellowship
Community Legal Services
Drug Policy Alliance
Health in Justice Action Lab
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Justice Action Network
Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana
Justice Innovations LLC
National Employment Law Project
National Youth Employment Coalition
Operation Restoration
Power Coalition for Equality and Justice
PREACH/East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition
Public Interest Law Center
Root & Rebound
Safer Foundation
Treatment Communities of America
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs