Previously Convicted Felons Barred from Stimulus Employment in Virginia? Part Four (Final)

Four days ago I received the final response to a question that I had stumbled upon almost two months ago – are there employment restrictions against people with past criminal histories for stimulus projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009? Somewhat on a whim, I decided to see if I could uncover the answer to this question by sending inquiries to the Department of Energy, Virginia State Government, and the Department of Labor, because the anecdote I had heard involved Virginia county agencies preventing previously convicted felons from being employed on stimulus-funded energy projects. One by one, thoughtful responses slowly came back from all the agencies I had contacted, and all of the answers were an overwhelming NO – there are NO POLICY RESTRICTIONS against employing previously convicted felons on stimulus projects.

If you are aware of a stimulus project in your community that bars ex-offenders, I would highly urge you to report the incident to Government Accountability’s FraudNet, or contact relevant agencies’ Inspectors General as listed on Recovery.gov.

The Department of Labor’s response took the longest to arrive, but as it was particularly detailed and provided a lot of information on relevant employment and grants programs for ex-offenders, I’ve included the majority of their email response below.

The Recovery Act does not contain provisions precluding program participation by ex-offenders. In fact, ex-offenders are among the specific groups of targeted participants in several of the recently released Green Jobs Solicitations for Grant Applications (SGAs). Please note that the SGA for State Energy Sector Partnerships (SESP) and Training Grants specifically identifies individuals with criminal records as one of the groups targeted to receive priority for training and other services.

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) sponsors two activities directly relating to ex-offenders – the Federal Bonding Program (FBP) and the Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative (PRI).

The FBP is an innovative activity which serves as a tool to secure the job-placement of ex-offenders and other high-risk applicants. This program is administered under contract with the McLaughlin Company, an agent of the Travelers Property Casualty insurance company, and issues fidelity bonds to employers to protect the employer in case of any loss of money or property due to employee dishonesty. For the bond to be issued, the employer must make the applicant a job offer and set a date for the individual to start work. Issuance of the bond for job placement can be requested by either the employer or the job applicant. This request is to be made to the local agency certified by the FBP. In the materials, enclosed with this e-mail, I am providing a list of the phone numbers for the State bonding coordinators who can facilitate such a request.

The PRI is designed to help strengthen urban communities and assist ex-offenders reentering the community. Under the PRI, ex-offenders are eligible for training and the full range of related services to enable them to gain employment. Although there are currently no sites in Virginia involved in this program, the PRI is a clear illustration of ETA’s interest in providing assistance to ex-offenders as they reenter the community and the workforce.

As the accompanying PDF described both the FBP and the PRI in greater detail, I’ve decided to also post the PDF here in case anyone finds this information helpful.

This is part four of four in the “Previously Convicted Felons Barred from Stimulus Employment in Virginia?” series. Follow the discussion through parts one, two, three, and four.

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