October 25, 2022

Taking it to Court

Former GPEP student Sekwan Merritt is the owner of Lightening Electric, a small business that provides electrical services and hires system-impacted people, giving them a life-changing chance at employment. During the pandemic, Sekwan’s application for the Paycheck Protection Program was denied because of his criminal record. The ACLU took on the case with Sekwan as one of their lead plaintiffs, and in 2020 they were victorious in challenging the U.S. Small Business Administration’s rule excluding formerly incarcerated businesses owners from receiving CARES Act funding. View a video the ACLU made featuring Sekwan.

Building on the foundation laid by Sekwan in 2020, in April 2022 former GPEP students Donalto Marshall, Joseph Clark, and Ramieka Robinson-Peoples continued the conversation at a roundtable discussion with Isabella Casillas Guzman, who heads the U.S. Small Business Administration. They spoke about the collateral consequences of criminal convictions that create barriers to accessing the resources and capital needed to start a small business. GPEP students are tenacious in moving the needle on the perception and treatment of formerly incarcerated persons.