New pilot program from the Department of Commerce offers reimbursements for hiring formerly incarcerated individuals
PHILADELPHIA – Today, the Department of Commerce officially launched the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative (FCHI), a pilot program designed to encourage businesses to provide Philadelphians with meaningful employment when they return from incarceration. The Fair Chance Hiring Initiative was created to provide a more efficient alternative to the current Philadelphia Re-Entry Program (PREP) Tax Credit, and if successful this program will be proposed as a permanent replacement for PREP in the future.
Employers can apply for reimbursements through the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative when they hire Philadelphia residents who have been released from incarceration within the last five years. To qualify, the employee must work a minimum of 21 hours per week and be paid at least $12.10 per hour, the City’s standard for a living wage. All employees must be approved by the Mayor’s Office of Reintegration Services for Ex-Offenders (RISE).
“The City of Philadelphia is committed to inclusion and a workforce that reflects the city’s population,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Integrating returning citizens into the workforce is vital to growing Philadelphia’s economy, providing opportunity to all residents, and reducing poverty levels. With the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative, the City can partner with businesses to make the process of hiring these dedicated individuals as easy as possible.”
According to the Philadelphia Reentry Coalition, approximately 24,000 Philadelphians were incarcerated in county jail or state or federal prison as of June 2015. An additional 55,000-60,000 were actively supervised on probation or parole. A key factor in preventing recidivism following release is securing employment. The Fair Chance Hiring Initiative aims to support up to 100 jobs in the first year of the pilot program, with $500,000 allocated for FY18.
Employers will be reimbursed $5 per hour for each qualified position, up to 40 hours a week with a maximum of 1,000 hours per position annually. Applicants must be the owner of a commercial business located in Philadelphia, operating legally, and current with all City obligations, including but not limited to taxes, licenses and water revenue billings. Employers will be required to enter a Fair Chance Hiring Initiative agreement before hiring an employee for their open position.
“Last year we formed a Tax Policy Committee to identify several tax credits that could be converted to grants in order to ease the implementation process and better serve businesses,” said Senior Deputy Commerce Director for Business Development Duane Bumb. “The Fair Chance Hiring Initiative will be the first pilot program tested, and we hope it will be an incentive that benefits both business owners and returning citizens. By simplifying the application process and accelerating the return on investment for employers, we believe more businesses will be inclined to take advantage of the incentive and create more jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals. In addition to providing opportunities for these individuals, FCHI will also allow employers to tap into a qualified and underutilized pool of potential employees.”
The Fair Chance Hiring Initiative will be administered by the Department of Commerce in the form of grants. The PREP Tax Credit will continue during the pilot phase of FCHI, and if the program is determined to be effective, additional funding will be sought in subsequent years with the intention of phasing out the PREP Tax Credit.
Interested businesses can find the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative application online now. The application requires the employer to provide anticipated hiring plans, including the number of positions, number of hours and hourly wage rate. Once an application is approved by the Department of Commerce, RISE will connect with the employer to begin the hiring process. An Employment Specialist from RISE will identify possible candidates based on the business’ requirements, and then the interview process will commence as normal based on the company’s process. Participating businesses must submit documentation on a semi-annual basis to receive reimbursement for eligible wages.