The month of April 2023 is declared National Second Chance Month, which aims to inform and highlight the many opportunities for city, state, local, and tribal governments, and community-based service providers to build meaningful second chances for our returning community members. 

In Philadelphia, the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative supports local businesses with hiring local job seekers that are justice-impacted while providing financial incentives to businesses in the form of wage reimbursements and employment retention grants. In the fall of 2020, the Department of Commerce, Workforce Solutions team redesigned the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative (FCHI) with additional benefits for current employers and the eligible employees they hire. As an added benefit, employers receive a one-time $500 employment retention grant for each eligible employee retained during the 180-calendar days hiring period. Eligible employees also would receive a one-time, taxable $1,000 employment retention grant for completing the new hire period.  

Through FCHI, the City aims to promote economic opportunity and workforce success by providing financial incentives to businesses and Philadelphia residents.  Hear from Vanessa Smith, Human Resources Manager at Crust Vegan Bakery, a business participating in FCHI about what the program means to them. Hear as well from Tanya Locks, employee who recently celebrated her 2-year anniversary at Crust Vegan Bakery.  

FCHI program supports business owners

Tell us a little bit about your business. What services does your business provide? 

Vanessa Smith (VS): Crust Vegan Bakery is in Manayunk, Northwest Philadelphia. Crust values high quality ingredients and strives to purchase local products, when possible, to support other small businesses and local makers. Our goal is to find balance between offering affordable quality products to our clients, while also providing a living wage and supportive work environment for our staff. Crust works to ensure there is room to give back to the community within our costing structure by donating food and funds to causes we feel passionately about.  

How many people does your business employ?  

VS: Crust Vegan Bakery currently employs 18 people (including the owners).    

When did your business join FCHI and why?  

VS: Crust Vegan Bakery joined FCHI as an employer partner in 2021. We joined to connect with the community and believe wholeheartedly that while people make mistakes, people are not the mistakes they have made. Community extends to the returning citizens population and these mistakes should not be held over their futures for the rest of their lives.  

How does FCHI support your business?  

VS: The financial incentives have helped the employees we hire to stay on longer. It has been an amazing way to give back to our employees. 

Why do you think fair chance hiring is important?  

VS: Fair chance hiring gives people the chance to show that they are more than what is on their record by providing returning citizens the opportunity to be seen as the person that they are. 

These past few years have been difficult for everyone. How do you feel inspired?  

VS: The Crust Vegan Bakery staff keeps me inspired, all the great energy that surrounds me every day. The business might be small, but it is mighty, giving all their love and care to the community and every person who supports our business.   

What is your advice for other employers looking to implement fair chance hiring practices?  

VS: I would recommend employers in Philadelphia to apply for the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative. 

FCHI program supports employees

What are your goals and how does your current employment help you reach them? 

Tanya Locks (TL): My ultimate goals are to reenter society and to take care of myself without being judged. When I first joined Crust Vegan Bakery, I was nervous because they knew of my past. Based on past work experiences, I was unsure how I would be treated. To my surprise and amazement, my new employers at Crust Vegan Bakery were extremely welcoming and told me that my record does not define who I am. My employers make me feel very comfortable.  

How can employers support individuals who return from incarceration? 

TL: Employers can help support individuals returning from incarceration by getting to know the person as they are and recognizing that although they made a mistake, they would still like to be treated the same as other employees.  

What would you want other employees to know about joining FCHI? 

TL: Don’t give up. There are resources available with employers who are willing, ready to hire and help.  

What is the impact of the $1,000 grant incentive in your life? 

TL: I am using the retention grant as a nest egg to start saving funds and move into an apartment. 

What keeps you motivated? 

TL: Crust Vegan Bakery and my co-workers keep me motivated. Everyone at Crust Vegan Bakery continuously makes me feel like I belong.