Joint Statement on COVID-19 Small Business Loans: End Criminal Records Restrictions

April 16, 2020

“As Congress considers providing additional stimulus and support to small businesses, we urge the U.S. Small Business Administration to remove any policies that restrict or disqualify people with criminal records from accessing emergency loans appropriated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act).

We applaud President Trump’s signing of the stimulus package, which includes small business loans to provide financial relief to businesses and their employees who are struggling to keep afloat during the pandemic. However, as it stands, these loan programs exclude some small business owners who have criminal records, endangering their economic welfare as well as that of the people they employ.

For example, the Paycheck Protection Program—which provides loans meant to help employers pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis—denies applicants if they are facing criminal charges or have had a felony conviction in the past five years. The application also includes several questions that make it unclear as to whether other types of criminal records or past involvement with the justice system may prohibit access to these loans.

The CARES Act was designed to provide a helping hand to all those devastated by an indiscriminate pandemic, supplying much-needed assistance to employers and business owners who make up the backbone of our economy. The Small Business Administration’s policies regarding people with criminal records go against the intent of the legislation and the Trump administration’s ongoing support of second chances for people who have served their time.

We urge the Trump administration to reject these discriminatory policies and ask the Small Business Administration to remove all questions that relate to a person’s criminal record from the application process.”


The Council of State Governments Justice Center

National League of Cities

Correctional Leaders Association

National Legal Aid & Defender Association

Prison Fellowship

R Street

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Start Small Think Big

The Access Project

Record Clearance Project, San Jose State University

Policy Advocacy Clinic, UC Berkeley School of Law

Root and Rebound

Rubicon Programs

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