Widespread Support for Portman Initiative to Help Small Business Owners with Previous Criminal Records During Coronavirus Pandemic

May 1, 2020 | Portman Difference

Reentry and second chance coalition leaders, law enforcement, and local officials in Ohio and around the country have announced their support for Senators Portman and Cardin’s letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Jovita Carranza urging that the SBA allow small business owners with criminal records to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Currently, PPP, which provides forgivable loans to small businesses that keep their employees on payroll during the COVID-19 crisis, denies applicants if the business has “an owner of 20 percent or more of the equity of the applicant [who] is incarcerated, on probation, on parole; presently subject to an indictment, criminal information, arraignment, or other means by which formal criminal charges are brought in any jurisdiction; or has been convicted of a felony within the last 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 following national and Ohioan reentry and second chance coalition leaders, law enforcement, and local officials have voiced their support of the initiative: 

Troy Parker, President & CEO of Innovative Cleaning Services, Inc.: “At Innovative Cleaning Services and Supply Inc. DBA Innovative Labor and Cleaning Services, we are very proud of the work that Senator Rob Portman has accomplished on behalf of the American citizens who have paid their debt to society. In America, we have always believed that helping our fellow citizen is the cornerstone of achievement.  We employ people who have not made the best decisions in life, but need a second chance to become productive people for themselves, society and their families.”

Armond Budish, Cuyahoga County Executive: The COVID crisis has had a devastating economic impact on small business owners throughout the country. Small business owners who have a criminal background should have the same opportunity for economic relief as all other small business owners. I fully support Senators Portman and Cardin in their request to allow those with criminal backgrounds to have the same access as others. These are people who have done their time and returned to our communities as productive business owners -- they deserve the same relief as everyone else.”

Marilyn Brown, Franklin County Commissioner: “I applaud and thank Senator Portman and Senator Cardin for their bipartisan leadership in standing up for second chances for our residents and the businesses they have built.  We are all impacted by the health and economic crisis of COVID-19, and all are deserving of equal access to critical supports. Just as today’s challenges will not define our future in Franklin County, every resident must have their fullest chance to recover and rebuild a prosperous future.” 

Mike Calabrese, Executive Director, Opportunities for Individual Change (OIC), Clark County: “Withholding PPP funds from individuals that have paid the price for their crime is not only unjust, it unfairly pits them against other companies in their trade or service. This is in no small way being charged for the same crime twice. I know Re-integrated citizens that run legitimate businesses who should enjoy the same benefits as any other legitimate business person.” 

Rob Streck, Montgomery County Sheriff:  “As the Sheriff of Montgomery County, I believe our laws should be strictly enforced and individuals who are in violation answer to our criminal justice system.  I also believe these same individuals deserve to live their lives just like the rest of society once they have been held accountable. Everyone deserves a second chance and no one in our community should be discriminated against because of mistakes they have made in the past.” 

Dr. Patrice Palmer, Head of Franklin County’s Pathways Program: “People need the opportunity to do better.  Removing the barriers and restrictions of receiving federal dollars for small businesses gives access to the best talent in the labor market.  Utilizing an audacious approach can restore the value, dignity, and worth of formerly justice involved individuals, not only does that benefit the individual, but we strengthen the overall economy of our nation.”  

Robert Alt, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Buckeye Institute: “The Buckeye Institute is grateful that our own U.S. Senator Portman stepped up to call on the Small Businesses Administration to allow people who have paid their debt to society and are trying to rebuild their lives to qualify for a program intended to help small business owners during this crisis. A hearty Buckeye bravo to Senator Portman for standing up for those who have changed their ways and are contributing to society.” 

Thom Mollohan, Chair of Gallia County Citizens for Prevention and Recovery: “We have witnessed and celebrated a number of people in Gallia County who, although they have in the past committed offenses for which they have been held accountable, have since established themselves as important parts of our community, some who have gone on to hold positions demonstrating their value as competent and committed employees, and in some cases have started their own businesses and earned the respect of their neighbors, customers, and clients. When such a person has overcome such obstacles, particularly the ones that they have perhaps in the past contributed to themselves, their community does well to allow them to come to the table as peers and valued parts of that community’s infrastructure. I hope to see this policy revisited and altered to allow for these things.  Thank you and Senator Portman for reaching out and for all you do for us in Gallia County.” 

Crystal Bryant, Director of Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry: “Being able to have the proper resources to support those who have paid their debt to society and serve as viable business owners is an important step to ensure that local small businesses in the ecosystem do not falter. Those that have been directly impacted by the justice system face challenges related to the workforce at two times the rate of someone who has not been. Business ownership is a way to bring income into their homes, our communities and serves as a way to give back to other peers by offering self-sufficiency. We’re grateful to Senator Portman for his leadership on this important issue.”

Trina Jackson, Director of Hamilton County Office of Reentry: As director of the Hamilton County Office of Reentry, I support Senator Portmans recommendation to eliminate the exclusionary language that prevents small business owners, who also happen to be returning citizens, from taking advantage of the economic support available through the CARES Act. On an annual basis, over 600,000 people return to our communities from federal, state, and local correctional facilities. These individuals face barriers to financial stability, housing, and other basic needs. While second chance hiring has become a buzzword, unemployment rates for returning citizens are typically five times the national average. Entrepreneurship is a vehicle through which many returning citizens achieve financial stability, provide employment for other formerly incarcerated men and women, and reducing recidivism. Denying returning citizens access to assistance offered through the CARES Act sends a very strong message to all returning citizens, that although you’ve paid your debt to society, the debt will never truly be paid.” 

Holly Harris, President and Executive Director of Justice Action Network: “It defies common sense to punish people who have already paid their debt to society, turned their lives around, embraced the American dream, and opened a small business. We are grateful to leaders like Sen. Portman and Sen. Cardin, who put people before partisanship, and joined together to call for a change to this policy that creates bureaucratic barriers to economic prosperity and negatively impacts public safety. Ohio and Maryland are lucky to have these leaders, who understand that we cannot get America back to normal if we’re denying countless American small businesses the opportunity to survive.” 

Megan Quattlebaum, Director of The Council of State Governments Justice Center: “With the thousands of employment restrictions already in place impeding people with criminal records, opening a small business can be a viable option,” said “That’s why the Small Business Administration itself has supported training and microloan programs for people who are in prison or have criminal records. The agency should avoid contradicting those efforts, and we’re thrilled that Sen. Portman and Sen. Cardin are calling for these rules to be revised.” 

Jeff Magada, Founder and Executive Director of Flying HIGH Inc.: “Flying HIGH Inc. fully supports U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Ben Cardin’s request urging the SBA to allow small business owners with criminal records to apply for the Payment Protection Program.  In our many years of assisting people with criminal backgrounds, we have witnessed numerous individuals work hard to turn their lives around and become productive, tax-paying citizens and business owners.  Policies in the CARES Act should encourage them to continue living productive lives and provide them with the same support as all other citizens.  We must not continue to punish them for their past mistakes, especially since the present circumstances are no fault of their own.”

Brandon Chrostowksi, Founder and CEO of EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute: “Now is not the time to subject our courageous returning citizens to undue burdens at a time when they are on the frontlines of supporting local communities affected by this pandemic.  We know that education and employment both work to reduce recidivism.  A business owner, who is contributing to the tax base and employing members of the community should not be punished a second time, for a mistake they have already served time for.  If we are truly in this together, as is currently the widespread sentiment, then no demographic should be singled out and left to fend for themselves.  America has a responsibility to ensure the stability of small businesses during this unprecedented crisis in our nation’s history.  These businesses strengthen the community, fortify families and bolster America’s image as place where opportunity is afforded to everyone. The idea of abandoning our most vulnerable when their needs are the greatest is the very definition of un-American and should be rejected out of hand.”

Lisa Roberts R.N./ Public Health Nurse at Portsmouth City Health Department: “Americans are facing tough economic challenges, and people with past criminal records face even bigger economic challenges. Many Americans with past criminal histories have struggled especially hard to earn a living, and faced policy barriers and discrimination with potential employers—yet managed to build their own small businesses and become vital contributors to our collective workforce. It is especially important that we support these individuals at a time when the opioid epidemic has left so many people with criminal charges that were related to addiction, but whom have since recovered and become successful business owners and are supporting families.   Americans like myself depend on these small businesses to maintain our homes, farms, equipment, and many other vital aspects of our lives. I support Senator Portman’s work on this important issue and thank him for continuing to represent the best interests of all Americans.”

Denise Robinson, CEO of Alvis: “After paying their debt to society, individuals with past justice involvement often become successful entrepreneurs and small business owners. They are eager to turn their lives around and they are willing to work very hard to achieve business success.  They are also some of the most enthusiastic second chance employers.” 

Ron and Catherine Tijerina, Executive Directors, The RIDGE Project: “Entrepreneurship, along with creating and operating one’s own business is an essential means of economic self-sufficiency for many who have been involved in the criminal justice system.  As an organization that helps train ex-offenders in entrepreneurial pursuits we were saddened to learn that the current guidelines have essentially locked out an important group of small business owners who also deserve equal access to financial support for their legitimate businesses. It would be a tremendous loss to our communities and a giant step backward for our nation to leverage these collateral sanctions against people who are working hard to support themselves and their families.” 

Ruthann House, President and CEO of Great Lakes Community Action Partnership:  “We know from our experience in working with the reentry population that employment is a critical element of reintegration and rehabilitation. We need to support all small business owners who are now in need, and not exclude people from receiving this assistance. They have paid their dues for their transgressions and are working hard to provide needed services and products in our communities. We’re grateful to Senator Portman for his hard work and leadership on this issue.” 

Denise Driehaus, Hamilton County Commissioner:We should be celebrating our returning citizen entrepreneurs, not putting up barriers. Preventing emergency loans to businesses owned by returning citizens wont make our community any safer, and only serves to harm our local economy and the employees who work for these companies.