PPP shouldn’t exclude ex-cons

Dreamstime/Tribune News Service

The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on May 18:

DALLAS (Tribune News Service) — After running out of money once, the Paycheck Protection Program has started accepting loan applications again. But the rules are still shutting out some worthy applicants.

Part of the massive government stimulus package for coronavirus relief, the PPP offers loans to business owners to help their companies, and the jobs they support, survive the economic calamity created by the pandemic. But among multiple problems with the program is this one: Applicants are automatically disqualified if they have had run-ins with the law.

It should be beyond obvious that actively dangerous criminals shouldn’t receive these funds. But the PPP goes much farther than such a commonsense rule. It disqualifies applicants if they have been convicted of a felony within the past five years, if they have been placed on parole for a felony in the past five years, or if they have merely been accused of a felony in the past five years and participated in a pretrial diversion program. What’s more, the convict doesn’t have to be the sole or even majority owner of the company in order for the company to be disqualified. All of this regardless of the circumstances of the crime and, most important we think, of the possibility of rehabilitation. Under PPP guidelines, an applicant could be disqualified even if he has served all of his time and paid his debt to society.

Such exclusions are particularly damaging to ex-cons precisely because they are ex-cons. It’s often hard for Americans with criminal histories to find employment, so many start their own businesses. They open restaurants or mechanic shops or consulting firms rather than submitting job applications that will be automatically disqualified just as the PPP application will. We’d argue that creating a large pool of people who will essentially be locked out of providing for themselves is not in the public interest. We are all better off if legally operated firms remain in business and support people who otherwise find it nearly impossible to find work.

There is an easy fix here, as simple as changing some wording on an application. Rather than ask if applicants have been convicted, the form could simply ask if applicants have been convicted or pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to any charge for which a sentence or settlement is not complete.

The PPP shouldn’t finance criminal enterprises, but it also shouldn’t be the mechanism for marking ex-cons with a scarlet letter after they’ve successfully navigated the Texas correctional system. As cynical as our society can be, we still believe that some people learn from their mistakes and that those who have served their time and put their past behind them shouldn’t be punished again by excluding their businesses from this assistance.

Visit the Dallas Morning News at www.dallasnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency. © 2020 Dallas Morning News.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(6) comments

zeitgeist

Ex-cons affected by this have not only paid their debt to society but have evolved to the point where, by owning businesses, they contribute to it. They've met every hope and expectation we have for ex-cons! Seems as long as a person has done time, there's no end to paying for it. Nothing an ex-con can do, including becoming a contributing member of society and owning a business, removes the stigma of having done time.

In excluding ex-cons from PPP loans, their employees are punished. Don't their employees deserve to remain on payrolls during the crisis as other Americans? Of course they do.

This is inconsistent with Trump's First Step Act (criminal justice reform) signed into law in 2018. Does he have his heart in criminal justice reform or not? When the Act was signed into law, some said Trump viewed it as a campaign 2020 move, intended to attract minority voters to his base. That could be the extent to which he is invested in criminal justice reform. How typically Trumpish is that?

Holmes

An estimated 68% of released prisoners are arrested within 3 years, 79% within 6 years, and 83% within. (DOJ numbers) So much for “becoming a contributing member of society.”

zeitgeist

Holmes, in order to reduce recidivism we have to facilitate the reintegration of ex-cons into society. Instead, however, we hinder and impede it by stigmatizing them and imposing our prejudices and fears on them. When we do this, we make employment, housing, voting, holding public office, sharing parental custody, securing loans, etc., difficult for them. Our stigmatizing, prejudices and fears enable recidivism.

Holmes -- the real one

[thumbup][thumbup]

Nice_Commenter

I agree, Trump's Lawyer Michael Cohen, Trump's NSA director Michael Flynn, and Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort should never get out of prison.

Holmes

9 years

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