Civic News

Sen. Ben Cardin just proposed legislation to help returning citizens start businesses

The NEW START Act would create a reentry program that provides microloans for entrepreneurship-focused efforts.

Civic hackers brainstorm at Mission: Launch's 2014 Rebuilding Reentry Hackathon in D.C.

(Photo by Lalita Clozel)

Legislation introduced this week by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) would create a program within the federal government that helps returning citizens who start businesses.

Cardin, who is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, introduced the NEW START Act on Tuesday. The legislation would create a program within the U.S. Small Business Administration to award grants to organizations that provide business counseling and entrepreneurial development training to recently incarcerated individuals.

Cardin said it’s designed as a follow-up to the federal prison reform legislation passed by Congress late last year.

“Congress must now find solutions to the many barriers that formerly incarcerated individuals face when they leave prison,” Cardin said in a statement. “This bill will use the power of entrepreneurship to help returning citizens rebuild their lives and reenter their communities by giving them the training and capital they need to start businesses. It will give returning citizens one more tool in their reentry toolkit.”

Employment is among the widely identified challenges faced by people returning from prison that leads to recidivism. We saw one effort to address this through entrepreneurship illustrated in recent Delaware coverage of a program to expand business expertise in returning citizens through urban farming.


Under Cardin’s bill, organizations would partner with lenders in an existing microloan program, which could provide up to $50,000 to help entrepreneurs.

Among supporters quoted in a release from Cardin’s office is Laurin Leonard, executive director of Baltimore-based, reentry-focused social enterprise Mission: Launch.

“Entrepreneurship — from micro-enterprises to high-growth businesses — supports financial well-being and economic mobility, which are fundamental to reducing the lasting harm caused by incarceration,” Leonard said. “The NEW START Act is an exciting opportunity to continue to invest in entrepreneurs who have demonstrated their commitment to positively contributing to their families and communities as well as their local economies.”

Companies: Mission: Launch
People: Ben Cardin
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