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Michigan Business Law: Update on Work Opportunity Act – Removing Barriers to Employment for Ex-Felons.

Falling From Grace.

Yesterday, I was at a CBMC Grand Rapids Luncheon and listed to Craig DeRoche tell his remarkable story of his rise to becoming the youngest House Speaker in Michigan history and abrupt fall to incarceration due to his hidden drug and alcohol addiction.

Craig now uses his skills and unique life experiences serving as VP of Policy at Prison Fellowship, an organization actively engaged in restoring those affected by crime and incarcerated.

But for God’s Grace – there go I.

Craig’s story and my own life experiences gave me pause to consider:

How many of us are a few life choices/circumstances away from being homeless? In prison? Addicted?

Serving the Vulnerable – Ex-Felons.

Yesterday I read a rather timely article posted by the Small Business Association of Michigan – the following statistic stood out to me:

Convicts leaving incarceration often have a difficult time re-entering the working world because, according to one survey, 65 percent of employers would never consider hiring someone with a felony record.

When people think about the marginalized in our society – those with a felony record should be at the top of the list.

Michigan Work Opportunity Act

Senate Bill 14 was passed by the Senate and it appears set to be passed by the House as well. Check out the Legislative Analysis by the House Fiscal Agency, here

The Bill would create the “Work Opportunity Act” which would require the Department of Talent and Economic Development (TED) to provide grants for employers’ hiring of qualified individuals on probation or parole.

The House Fiscal Agency’s Analysis recognizes the “apparent problem”

“In seeking re-entry into the workforce, an ex-felon is confronted with myriad challenges, including appealing to employers who are not eager to accept the risk of hiring an ex-felon. This program would seek to mitigate that risk, by offering grants of a portion of the exfelon’s salary to employers who hire qualified ex-felons.”

The Bill has received formal support from the following organizations:

Kelly Services (2-8-17)

Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit (2-8-17)

Michigan Catholic Conference (2-8-17)

Michigan Sheriff’s Association (3-1-17)

Grand Rapids Chamber (3-1-17)

The office of the Attorney General (3-1-17)

Being Part of the Solution.

I am encouraged by the many groups committed to being part of the solution to removing barriers to work for the formerly incarcerated.  Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids lead by CEO Kathy Crosby does a fantastic job of equipping this demographic and putting them into long term employment. Mel Trotter Ministries has placed 135 individuals in their shelter into full time employment in 2016.

Some West Michigan companies who do a great job of reaching out to hire/place those with employment barriers include Cascade Engineering, the work started by its Founding CEO Fred KellerLacks EnterprisesKentwood Office Furniture and Express Employment Professionals of Grand Rapids lead by Janis Petrini  to name a few.

These organizations should give us pause to reflect on how we can do our part.

But for God’s Grace, there go I.

Questions? comments?

email: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka