How Criminals Can Find Small Business Grants

Finding a job after incarceration has long been a challenge. Having a crime on your record carries a huge stigma when looking for a job. According to the Brookings Institution, almost half of ex-prisoners have no declared income in the first years after their release. Of those who find a job, half earn about $ 10,090 per year, well below the poverty line.

A second chance is to join the ranks of small business owners in the United States, although this path also presents training and funding challenges. However, government agencies and non-profit organizations have stepped up to provide support. From grants to microloans, here is an overview of the aids available to criminals who want to start a business.

What is a government grant?

A government grant is money provided by federal, state, or local government agencies that do not have to be repaid. Funding, which typically targets specific groups, can cover everything from education to business start-up costs.

However, there aren’t many government grants specifically for criminals. In the past there were more social programs, but today a convicted felon has to compete with other business owners for grants and other types of financial assistance.

“We have a decades-old prejudice within us,” Bill Collins, mentor of GOAL, said “It’s hard to get grants, hard to get loans, and hard to get financing.”

Some states have training and grant programs specifically aimed at recently released criminals. However, the dollar amount tends to be small and the programs are not widespread. Nevertheless, there are still funding resources for those convicted of felony.

Grants are also offered by foundations, corporations and other entities.

What Are the Grants for Criminal Business Owners? operates a database of federal government grants accessible through a browser or mobile application. You can search the database by keyword, type of funding, eligibility, category, and other criteria.

You better throw a wider net using more general search terms when searching for grants on this website. For example, a search using the keyword “criminals” did not return any results, but “startup” did. Look for grants aimed at entrepreneurs, small businesses, industry, gender and heritage, instead of those aimed specifically at criminals or ex-prisoners. You can apply for grants directly from [Want to learn the types of small business grants available?]

Subsidies from the Ministry of Labor

The US Department of Labor has grant programs to help people with criminal records. These grants cover housing, small business expenses, and other costs. Anyone is eligible to apply for the grants, so the competition can be fierce.

Federal student aid grants

Sometimes starting a business requires additional training or training. To make education more accessible and affordable, the federal government offers scholarships and grants to students. Federal Supplementary Education Opportunity Grant, or FSEOG, is a federal grant for undergraduate students with “exceptional” financial need. Prices range from $ 400 to $ 4,000. You can’t use the money to start a business, but you can get the training you need to run one successfully.

Keep in mind that it can be difficult to get a grant. Priority is given first to recipients of the Federal Pell Grant, and criminals are not eligible for this program.

“Like all business grants, they are never easy or common,” said Danny Fitzgerald, Acting Regional Director of the Small Business Development Center in San Diego. “The trick for many [with a felony conviction] gets regular loans.

Small Business Administration Programs

The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers programs, such as training and free loans, designed to help entrepreneurs start their businesses. Depending on your situation, some or all of the programs may be right for you.

Business Boots

Business Boots is an entrepreneurial and educational training program provided by the SBA. Through the course, participants gain an overview of what entrepreneurship is, learn the fundamentals of business ownership, and are exposed to the skills and resources needed to write a business plan and start a business. This is a two-day program that normally takes place in person. After the completion of Boots to Business, participants have access to SBAs B2B Income Preparation Online Course in partnership with Mississippi State University.

The Boots to Business funding opportunity is run in conjunction with the Boots to Business program, which is awarded exclusively to Boots to Business participants. Through this program, the SBA supports the company for five years.

SBA microloans

Microcredits are a popular way for people with little or no credit history to access small business loans. The The SBA Microcredit Program offers small business loans of up to $ 50,000. The SBA partners with community not-for-profit organizations to issue and administer the loans. The average microcredit is around $ 13,000, with interest rates between 8% and 11%. The SBA microcredit proceeds can be used for working capital, inventory or supplies, furniture or fixtures, and machinery or equipment.

The SBA’s microcredit program is particularly attractive to criminals because most approved lenders do not seek a great credit score or an expansive credit history. “Microlenders are comfortable in credit situations,” Fitzgerald said.


Crowdfunding has become a popular way to test a business idea or raise funds. Through these digital platforms, you present your idea, indicate how much you are looking to raise and launch your campaign. Individuals can invest in your business in exchange for stocks or equipment. Most business owners don’t get rich off crowdfunding, but it is a way to raise some start-up capital.

“The challenge of crowdfunding is sometimes that you can get lost in a sea of ​​fundraising requests,” said Michael Brooks, associate director of Alabama SBDC Network. “America loves a good recovery, a story of redemption. If you have a good story to tell, you might be interested.”

Popular crowdfunding sites for business owners include Indiegogo and Kickstarter.

What are other resources for criminal business owners?

Raising capital and using microcredit are common ways criminals start a business, but they are not the only ways. Depending on the individual’s support system, the criminal may be able to solicit friends and family for loans. Alternatively, criminals can choose a business that they can start with little capital, such as painting or landscaping.

Ultimately, it pays to take advantage of all the training programs that are available while you are incarcerated, as you can learn skills that can help you find a job and start a business.

For example, skilled trades such as plumbing, HVAC and carpentry are in high demand right now, Collins said, and learning these kinds of skills is a good way to get a job and a path to owning a home. business.

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