In the midst of coronavirus, small business owners have struggled to stay afloat. Many have been forced to lay employees off. Luckily, however, the federal government’s disaster relief plan included funding for small business owners.
Or so we thought.
As formerly incarcerated business owners, many of us were hoping the government's coronavirus rescue package would help to replace the income we all lost now that our businesses were plummeting. We attended classes to ensure we would properly submit the applications. Finally, relief was here. Until questions five and six on the form.
There “it” was again. The box asking about a criminal record. The box enabling discrimination. Systemic Racism. The “it” that makes us second guess everything we do. The “it” that makes us hold our breath when we apply for housing or employment. The “it” that forced us into entrepreneurship in the first place. The "it" that forever makes us second-class citizens, no matter what we do.
We all earn honest livings and employ other people so that they can earn honest livings as well. But the “it” canceled all the imagined success we achieved.
Question 5 asked whether, within the last five years, we had been convicted of, or pled guilty or no contest to a felony, or “been placed on any form of parole or probation." Question 6 asked whether anyone who owns at least 20% of the company was incarcerated, under indictment, or on probation or parole. If so, they are ineligible.
Ineligible? When do we get to count? We were told not to apply. Some of us applied anyway, hoping we would slip through the cracks. But no luck. We were rejected. Can a formerly incarcerated person ever truly be apart of society?
You cannot begin to understand what it feels like to be rejected by society even after pulling yourself up to own a business. Not only are we discriminated against, but our employees are impacted as well.
Our tears and devastation are not enough to save our employees from hunger. We need help and the same resources as everyone else.
Goal of the campaign:
Under the existing relief plan, small business owners were eligible to receive $10,000 in relief funding, in addition to access to further loans and relief. The Formerly Incarcerated Small Business Rescue Fund is a mutual aid project that has recently formed to fill in the gap, and provide relief to formerly incarcerated small business owners.
In the long term, we also want to build a network of formerly incarcerated business owners who can help to support and sustain each other, and help formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs start their own businesses. This is only the first step, and we’re grateful to all of you who will join us.
We will use the money raised to provide grants to formerly incarcerated small business owners, who can fill out this form . The size of the grants will depend on how much money is raised. Beyond being formerly incarcerated and a small business owner, there are absolutely no restrictions on who can receive the funds. We particularly encourage formerly incarcerated Black, trans, queer, and disabled people to fill out the form .
The Formerly Incarcerated Small Business Fund is a mutual aid project started by Bridgette Simpson and Denise Ruben.