By Vicki Hyatt
For employers having trouble filling available positions, and individuals with a criminal history who are willing to work, there is a single answer that may benefit both.
A program called the Re-entry Initiative offered through the N.C. Department of Commerce is a three-prong effort to address the issue.
Employers who find a qualified candidate with a criminal history could qualify for a $2,400 tax credit per hire under certain conditions. Additionally, the program offers federal bonding in the event the employee is proven to be part of any theft and provides assurance that should the employee be let go, the business unemployment account won’t be charged.
Vanessa James is the regional re-entry specialist serving the 22 westernmost counties in the state. In addition to meeting with business to explain the program details, James networks with community partners such as probation officers, the NC Works Career center and others within a community who can help someone with a criminal history get back into the workforce.
The program also offers training programs for individuals who have been to prison, are on probation or who have pending charges on skills needed to obtain employment.
“We don’t try to tug on heart strings,” James said. “This is for qualified applicants who have a barrier because of some involvement with criminal justice system, but still has skills for the position they are trying to fill.”