WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — As businesses around the country are burning through the additional $300 billion dollars in paycheck protection program loans, many with criminal records have been shut out.
Some lawmakers are working to remove a rule that’s barring some business owners from getting their hands on loans.
“I created this company from nothing when I came home from prison,” business owner Quan Huynh said.
After serving 16 years behind bars, Huynh says he’s built a successful janitorial business that’s committed to hiring fellow ex-felons.
“For me, it’s a no brainer. These guys are my best employees by far,” Huynh said.
But COVID-19 has wiped out 70% of his contracts.
When he went to apply for an emergency federal loan, he was denied after clicking a box that confirms he’s on parole.
“At the bottom, there was a button grayed out, so I couldn’t continue. So there’s no way to hit next,” Huynh said “I had to lay off four of my employees.”
“That seems like double jeopardy to me, when you’ve paid your time,” Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, said.
Beatty says this should not be happening. She’s says the Small Business Administration should stop disqualifying applicants with a criminal record within the last five years.
“We are making sure that we are standing up for the people,” Beatty said.
She says the policy disproportionately hurts communities of color, which are already hit hardest by the virus.
So far, no Republicans have come out in support of the plan, but Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley says he is reviewing the policy.
Heather Rice-Minus with Prison Fellowship says the policy makes no sense.
“Unless there’s really a public safety reason, there should not be consequences and limitations placed on people. We should allow them to practice what we preach, which is go out there, transform your life, start fresh, become a taxpayer,” Rice-Minue said.
Beatty says she wants the SBA to change its policy before Congress provides more aid.
She says several Democrats are now backing her plan to ban the box, including Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama.
Kumar Rao with the Center for Popular Democracy says everyone deserves a chance to succeed.
“It really makes no sense to divide people based on their past history,” Rao said.