Sekwan Merritt, a Black small business owner who owns and operates a small electrical contracting business, Lightning Electric, was denied a government loan to support his business during the global pandemic because he is still on parole for a 2012 drug conviction.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is denying federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to small business owners with criminal records. Congress has made hundreds of billions of dollars in PPP loans available to small businesses to keep them and their employees financially afloat in the wake of COVID-19’s massive economic impact. However, the SBA’s exclusionary rules shut out many tax-paying small business owners with past criminal records, a group that is disproportionately Black and Latinx.

Merritt is one of the plaintiffs now suing the SBA for discrimination against formerly incarcerated people.

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