People with criminal records don’t directly receive federal grant funds to help find jobs or develop work-readiness skills. The U.S. government offers grant money to faith-based and community organizations, or FBCOs, that provide services to and for ex-cons. Much of the available grant money allows these FBCOs to offer job-training and job-placement services to former offenders. The government also offers a Federal Bonding Program to lower risk to employers who hire at-risk employees, and a Work Opportunity Tax Credit to businesses.
Reintegration of Ex-Offenders
The federal Reintegration of Ex-Offenders program for adults provides funds to pay for mentoring, job training and other employment-based services. FBCOs partner with community businesses, career centers, schools and universities and business owners to prepare ex-prisoners for work and find them jobs. Groups can also use this grant money to develop training programs and curricula. For example, an organization may offer computer or customer service classes for ex-inmates. As of 2013, RExO has awarded 71 grants to organizations that serve urban centers and areas with a large ex-prisoner population.
FBCOs can combine vocational training and education programs with job-training and job-placement services. Ex-offenders can take classes toward a GED, high school diploma, associate degree or bachelor’s degree with adult education agencies, community colleges and other schools and universities. FBCOs may also help ex-prisoners interested in learning a trade or receiving vocational training, such as in “green” industries. “If we don’t provide employment opportunities for every single person in our community with a history of felonies, we are really doing a disservice to ourselves and creating a public safety concern,” Kelly Pierron of the Tulsa County Prisoner Re-entry Initiative told Oklahoma City’s The Journal Record in 2011.
In 2011, President Barack Obama's administration invited FBCOs to compete for federal grant money earmarked for helping ex-prisoners learn career skills. In total, 10 organizations received nearly $12 million in grant money to use to implement and fund employment and training programs for ex-prisoners. Each organization received $1,170,000 in grant money, which marked the fourth time the federal government earmarked funds for jobs training for ex-inmates since RExO was founded in 2008. At the time the grant money was awarded, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis called it an investment in the future of the ex-prisoners who benefit directly from these employment-based programs and for their communities.
The U.S. government also offers the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and Federal Bonding Program. The tax credit provides a $1,200 to $2,400 tax credit for employers who hire ex-felons within one year of their release, while the Bonding Program protects businesses against possible losses from at-risk hires. You don’t have to be a FBCO for either program.
- U.S. Department of Labor: Employment and Training -- About RExO
- U.S. Department of Labor: U.S. Department of Labor Announces Grant Competition to Help Former Offenders Gain Career Skills and Rejoin Community Life
- U.S. Department of Labor: Press Release -- U.S. Department of Labor announces $11.7 million in grants to support, help ensure success of adult offenders returning to work
- The Journal Record: Working for Redemption -- Grant Money Helps Find Jobs for Ex-Cons, but Roadblocks Remain, Brian Brus
- U.S. Department of Labor: Employment and Training Administration -- Grantees
- U.S. Department of Labor: Employment and Training Administration -- Work Opportunity Tax Credit
- U.S. Federal Bonding Program
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.