Downtown Fort Lauderdale
PHOTO COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA
By CAREERSOURCE BROWARD
Each day, thousands of previously incarcerated men and women are released from our nation’s prisons, only to face an uphill battle when seeking employment because of their criminal history.
Studies have continued to suggest that individuals with a criminal background who are unemployed are at a greater risk of re-offending compared to those without employment.
Unfortunately, ex-offenders who are unable to find work often turn to crime and return to jail because they can’t financially support themselves and, in many cases, their families.
This issue is not only hurting American families, but also the very businesses that rely on able-bodied workers. According to the Center for Economic Policy Research from data collected in 2014, the employment barriers faced by former prisoners and people with felony convictions meant a reduction of about 1.7 to 1.9 million workers.
Employment barriers, which include lack of job skills and a limited education, even resulted in a staggering loss of between $78 and $87 billion in GDP.
Assisting ex-offenders with finding and keeping a job is one of several key elements of successful re-entry into our very own communities, and it’s time we enlist the help of employers to tackle this national crisis.
Yes, many of us can agree that there are certain risks factors that businesses have to consider when hiring those with a criminal history, such as employee safety and financial accountability. But there are also many benefits that can help ease uncertainties from employers, and with our very low local unemployment rates, this group of able-bodied workers are an untapped resource for businesses struggling to fill positions.
Initiatives like the Federal Bonding Program assists with job placement of ex-offenders and other high-risk applicants by offering $5,000 worth of fidelity bond coverage for the first six months of employment, allowing businesses to meet their hiring requirements and protect their assets.
Since 2013, CareerSource Broward has led the state in the amount of bonds written on behalf of businesses that have committed to hiring individuals from this special population. In return, these employers gained access to hundreds of ready and eager workers – all at no cost to the employer itself or the job applicant.
Companies can also take advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), which is available to employ ers who hire individuals from eligible target groups, including ex-felons.
The WOTC can reduce an employer’s federal income tax liability by as much as $9,600 per employee hired, and there is no limit on the number of individuals an employer can hire to qualify. Additional information can be found by visiting www.doleta.gov/wotc. Now, more than ever, is the time for us to start having an open dialogue about how employers can become one of the very many solutions needed to address this important workforce issue.
Here locally, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and CareerSource Broward will be teaming up to host the 2018 Broward County ReEntry Coalition Summit on Wednesday, Feb. 14, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Lauderdale Marketplace, located at 2926 State Road 7 in Lauderhill, Fla.
This one-day event is designed to provide valuable information and resources for employers that are or may be considering hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds and will feature a keynote address from Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
If you are an employer based in South Florida, this is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about hiring and managing formerly incarcerated individuals, the Federal Bonding Program, on-the-job training resources, other employer tax incentives and much more.
There is no registration fee, but seating is limited. For more information or to RSVP your business by Thursday, Feb. 1, call (954) 375-6179.
Together, we can help improve the lives those trying to re-enter into society. A goodpaying job can lead to endless opportunities, and those who have served out their sentences are deserving of the chance to work and contribute to our economy.
Commissioner Tim Ryan represents Broward County’s District 7 and serves as chair of the CareerSource Broward Council of Elected Officials Frank Ortis is the mayor of Pembroke Pines and chair of the Broward Workforce Development Board.