June 13, 2020 / 12:28 AM / 19 days ago

U.S. eases criminal record provision in coronavirus business loan program

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump signs the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act financial response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal authorities administering business payroll loans as part of U.S. coronavirus relief efforts on Friday eased rules prohibiting lending to business owners with criminal records, allowing some with no convictions in the past year to access funds.

The U.S. Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration said the look-back period for non-financial felony convictions has been reduced to one year from five years. The prohibition threshold for business owners with felonies involving fraud, bribery, embezzlement and similar offenses remains five years, they said.

The change goes further than what U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had suggested on Wednesday. He said the period for considering felony records would be reduced to three years.

The Paycheck Protection Program, part of a historic fiscal package worth nearly $3 trillion passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, offers businesses loans that can be partially forgiven if used for employee wages.

The Treasury Department and the SBA said the decision was made in the interest of criminal justice reform.

Reporting by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Will Dunham

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