Ex-prisoners excluded from business assistance loans

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – As businesses across the country consume the additional $ 300 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans, many people with criminal records have been left out.

Some lawmakers are working to remove a rule that prohibits some business owners from getting hold of loans.

“I started this business from scratch when I got home from prison,” said business owner Quan Huynh.

After spending 16 years behind bars, Huynh says he started a successful janitorial business that is committed to hiring other ex-criminals.

“For me, it’s obvious. These guys are my best employees by far, ”Huynh said.

But COVID-19 has wiped out 70% of its contracts.

When he went to apply for an emergency federal loan, he was turned down after he clicked a box confirming he was on parole.

“At the bottom there was a gray button, so I couldn’t continue. So there is no way to strike afterwards, ”Huynh said. “I had to lay off four of my employees. “

“It sounds like double jeopardy to me, when you’ve paid for your time,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio.

Beatty says that shouldn’t happen. She says the Small Business Administration should stop disqualifying applicants with criminal records within the past five years.

“We make sure we stand up for people,” Beatty said.

She says the policy disproportionately harms communities of color, which are already hardest hit by the virus.

So far, no Republican has backed the plan, but Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has said he is reviewing the policy.

Heather Rice-Minus with Prison Fellowship says politics doesn’t make sense.

“Unless there really is a reason for public safety, there should be no consequences and limitations imposed on people. We should allow them to practice what we preach, which is to go out there, transform your life, start from scratch, become a taxpayer, ”Rice-Minue said.

Beatty says she wants the SBA to change its policy before Congress stops helping.

She says several Democrats are now backing her plan to ban the box, including Congressman Joe Kennedy from Massachusetts and Sen. Doug Jones from Alabama.

Kumar Rao of the Center for Popular Democracy says everyone deserves a chance to be successful.

“It really doesn’t make sense to divide people based on their past history,” Rao said.

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