The application form for the PPP itself had more restrictions, such as mandating that no one owning 20% or more of the business be subject to any "means by which formal criminal charges are brought in any jurisdiction."
A similar loan from the SBA called the Economic Injury Disaster Loan also asked for the applicant's criminal history, and seems to exclude those who have "ever" been convicted, pleaded guilty, pleaded no contest, been placed on pretrial diversion, parole, or probation for "any criminal offense."
The small business hustle
James Blum, a Catholic who runs a community in Aurora, Colo., that assists men coming out of prison, told CNA that people with criminal records already face major challenges finding employment and getting loans.
Blum- who himself spent time in prison and has a felony on his record- considered applying for the PPP himself, but knew his felony would exclude him.
Many guys with criminal records hope, Blum said, that it would be easier to start their own company rather than try to get hired. The truth is, he said, most businesses, even if you're not a felon, don't succeed. There's a lot of money that must be invested, and there's an attitude of hustle that you have to have.
Reporting from the non-profit Marshall Project bears out Blum's experience, suggesting that because people with felonies, in particular, often cannot get jobs, many start their own businesses.
Blum said he knows a man with a criminal record who started his own janitorial business, and found some success doing that until the company eventually went under.
Another man he knew started a company doing custom tile, and took on several employees, but "he's working like a dog" to make ends meet.
"Many guys think, 'Oh I'll just work for myself.' And that sounds good, but it's very difficult to be successful as a small business owner in this country," he said.
"The call never comes"
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Blum's organization, My Father's House, helps men gain the skills they need to be successful post-prison. He said at least three of the men who frequent the house are currently out of work, one of whom was just released from prison and did not have a chance to look for a job before the pandemic began.
The other two, he said, have been laid off and are filing for unemployment.
"When they first get out of prison, men, especially those convicted of sexual offenses, aren't even allowed to access the internet, and they have to have permission, and that can take months to build the trust with the parole officer and the treatment providers and let them access the internet, and even have an email address," Blum said.
"To try to apply for a job in this world without an email address is just ridiculous. Every time you go on a website, the first thing they ask you is what's your email address. And so even if you can get permission to go to a monitored computer site, like at the parole office, and you go to a website, the very first thing they're going to ask you is for your email address."
At some point the parole officer will allow them to create an email address, but they can only access that email at the parole office, Blum said. The logistics are difficult, partly because they have to create a resume on a computer they're not familiar with, and they can't access their email every day.
When an employer finally gives someone with a criminal record a job interview, you can explain a felony as best you can, but it may not always make a difference, Blum said. The interview could be going well, and the interviewer could be impressed with the applicant's knowledge and experience, but it may end up being moot once they learn of the applicant's record.