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Source: United States House of Representatives – Representative David Trone


Contact: Hannah Muldavin, 

Trone Congratulates Hagerstown’s Altimont Mark Wilks on His Successful Challenge to SBA Rule That Would Prohibit Formerly-Incarcerated Individuals From Accessing PPP Small Business Funds 

Trone led a Congressional effort to push the SBA to make the change

Congressman Trone with Altimont Mark Wilks at Carmen’s Corner Store in Hagerstown, Maryland in January, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman David Trone (MD-06) congratulated Hagerstown resident Altimont Mark Wilks, owner of Carmen’s Corner Store and a formerly-incarcerated individual, for his successful challenge to a U.S. Small Business Administration rule that would prohibit him from accessing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds. 

The SBA had previously instituted a rule that would disqualify Wilks and other formerly incarcerated individuals from applying for the PPP funds passed by Congress as a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March. After months of pressure including a lawsuit on Mr. Wilks’s behalf and outreach from Congressman David Trone and a coalition of Members of Congress, the SBA announced that they would no longer restrict Wilks and other formerly-incarcerated individuals from accessing these crucial funds.

“We should not punish formerly-incarcerated entrepreneurs by denying them access to PPP funds for their small business,” said Congressman David Trone. “Mr. Wilks has been a leader in Hagerstown because of his success in opening Carmen’s Corner Store, and he has served as a mentor for other justice-impacted individuals. Now he is a national leader for returning citizens and small business owners across America who are fighting to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In the letter sent in April to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury Steve Mnuchin and Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Jovita Carranza, Trone and his fellow Members of Congress stated that a rule put in place by the SBA put restrictions on PPP funds never intended by Congress. 

The members stated, “Specifically, Congress did not intend for people who have been released from prison and followed the law to start or help start a business to be prevented from getting the capital they need to save it. Congress certainly did not intend to doom the businesses of those who have not even been convicted at all.”

They continue, “this provision is contrary to law, public policy, and common sense.”

Rep. David Trone (D-MD) was joined in this effort by Reps. Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Sean Casten (D-IL), Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Darren Soto (D-FL), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

The copy of the letter sent by the Members can be found here.

The entire text of the letter can be found below:

“Dear Secretary Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza:

We are writing to express concern with the Business Loan Program Temporary Changes; Paycheck Protection Program Interim Final Rule, 13 CFR Part 120 (hereinafter, “Rule”). The Rule contains many restrictions that were not only not included in the CARES Act, they were not intended by Congress at all.

Specifically, Congress did not intend for people who have been released from prison and followed the law to start or help start a business to be prevented from getting the capital they need to save it. Congress certainly did not intend to doom the businesses of those who have not even been convicted at all. This rule does both those things. Specifically, section III(2)(b)(iii) states:

“An owner of 20 percent or more of the equity of the applicant 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.”

This provision is contrary to law, public policy, and common sense.

Congress and the Trump Administration have made criminal justice reform a national priority. Working together in a bipartisan fashion, the First Step Act was passed to allow people to be released from prison where appropriate, establish programs to reduce recidivism, and support the formerly incarcerated as they return to their communities. Now, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Small Business Administration seem to have

designed, out of thin air, a rule that erases many of those gains and expands the collateral consequences of incarceration in the middle of a crisis.

Gainful employment and the ability to make ends meet are the foundation for reducing recidivism. Many of the formerly incarcerated receive training while serving their sentence to become barbers, welders, plumbers, and automotive technicians. Still others enter into less skilled trades such as landscaping and housekeeping. Some even become the pastors of their own small churches. One thing these professions have in common is that they lend themselves to independent contracting and business ownership. We should be encouraging and supporting the efforts of people to start their own, lawful businesses, not leaving them exposed during a pandemic.

Excluding a class of business owners from the Paycheck Protection simply for their status is not only contrary to law, it is wrong. The rule is so far reaching that simply having a sibling in a family-owned business charged with an unrelated crime would sink the entire business. Surely, this is not the desired result of Treasury or the Small Business Administration?

The Paycheck Protection Program was designed by Congress to give all small businesses a lifeline. The employees of the formerly incarcerated are just as entitled to remaining on payroll as other Americans. The CARES Act was designed to take care of ALL Americans. We hope you will update the regulations to reflect that.”

Congressman David Trone was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2018 to serve the 6th District of Maryland, which includes all or part of Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties. Trone serves on the Education and Labor, Foreign Affairs, and Joint Economic Committees, where he is fighting to make progress on issues that matter to Marylanders, including the opioid epidemic, criminal justice reform, and funding for medical research.