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Testimony Regarding HB 5583 An Act Concerning A Tax Credit for Employers That Employ Individuals Convicted of a Felony and Allowing Access to the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit by Certain Businesses

The Hartford Foundation submitted testimony to the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee on Monday, April 2 in support of House Bill 5583, An Act Concerning A Tax Credit for Employers That Employ Individuals Convicted of a Felony and Allowing Access to the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit by Certain Businesses.

The Foundation has supported a broad range of community programs that serve people released from prison and their families.  These investments recognize that returning citizens can have a variety of needs that must be met to successfully reintegrate back into their communities, including securing job training, basic literacy and other educational supports, job placement, housing, or issues related to sobriety or physical and mental health. In supporting efforts to provide increased education, job training and employment opportunities for previously incarcerated individuals, the greatest challenge to creating career pathways opportunities for returning citizens is finding employers willing to consider giving them a chance. The Hartford Foundation supports effective strategies to assist returning citizens and workforce development providers with establishing stronger employer relationships to hire and support workers’ transition to employment.

While additional state tax incentives are certainly worth considering, the Foundation pointed out in its testimony that many employers who do hire previously incarcerated individuals do it for a variety of other reasons, not necessarily to access tax credits. If the incentive is attractive and easy to access, however, it is likely they would use them if it improves their bottom line.  The businesses the Foundation has worked with that hire people with criminal records and found it worked well. The Foundation has made efforts to encourage employers who do hire returning citizens to share their experiences with other employers and discuss the benefits as well as challenges of providing people with an opportunity to work.  We have found that employer-to-employer dialogue is effective in responding to questions and helping others to take steps to examine their hiring policies and to try opening opportunities to qualified returning citizens. Read the full testimony below.

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Testimony Regarding House Bill 5583, An Act Concerning A Tax Credit for Employers That Employ Individuals Convicted of a Felony and Allowing Access to the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit by Certain Businesses
Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee
April 2, 2018

Good afternoon Senator Fonfara, Senator Frantz, Representative Rojas, Representative Davis and esteemed members of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee. The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving appreciates this opportunity to testify in support of House Bill 5583, An Act Concerning A Tax Credit for Employers That Employ Individuals Convicted of a Felony and Allowing Access to the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit by Certain Businesses.

As the community foundation for the Greater Hartford region, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving serves hundreds of nonprofits and more than 750,000 residents in 29 towns.  We are committed to ensuring that all residents in the region can thrive and contribute to the prosperity of the region and state.  Historically, the Foundation has supported a broad range of community programs that serve people released from prison and their families.  We recognize that returning citizens can have a variety of needs that must be met to successfully reintegrate back into their communities, including securing job training, basic literacy and other educational supports, job placement, housing, or issues related to sobriety or physical and mental health.

The Foundation has provided nearly $800,000 in support of the Second Chance Integrated Basic Skills and Education Training & Employment through the IBEST Second Chance Society Initiative since its launch in 2015. Many of the Greater Hartford reentry efforts require public and private partnerships.  Our shared interest is to ensure that returning citizens have the support needed to transition successfully to prevent returning to prison, and that interventions are not one size fits all.  Supports need to be tailored to individual needs to be effective and cost efficient. 

In December 2017, the Foundation provided $450,000 in funding to support a new reentry welcome center in Hartford, designed to coordinate services across providers of reentry services to support immediate access to basic services, including food and housing and connect people to job training, adult literacy and employment services.   

Returning citizens are also one of the populations served  in the Hartford Foundation’s $4.5 million Career Pathways Initiative which is working to increase the job skills and employment of low-literacy and/or low-skilled residents of the Greater Hartford region through nine cross-sector collaborations. This effort seeks to build and refine career pathways for low-literacy and/or low-skilled residents, support and promote partnerships across sectors to develop career pathways for low-literacy and/or low-skilled residents, and foster integrated career pathway system to respond to workforce needs of low-literacy and/or low-skilled residents.

The greatest challenge to creating career pathways opportunities for returning citizens is finding employers willing to consider giving them a chance. The Hartford Foundation supports effective strategies to assist returning citizens and workforce development providers with establishing stronger employer relationships to hire and support workers’ transition to employment.

There are existing federal incentives available to encourage employers to hire returning citizens have been in place for a number of years, including the Federal Bonding Program and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. In 2017, of the 6,923 certified employees eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, only 241 were returning citizens. While additional state tax incentives are certainly worth considering, we know that many employers who do hire previously incarcerated individuals do it for a variety of other reasons, not necessarily to access tax credits. If the incentive is attractive and easy to access, however, it is likely they would use them if it improves their bottom line.  The businesses we know tried hiring a few people with criminal records and found it worked well. The Foundation has made efforts to encourage employers who do hire returning citizens to share their experiences with other employers and discuss the benefits as well as challenges of providing people with an opportunity to work.  We have found that employer-to-employer dialogue is effective in responding to questions and helping others to take steps to examine their hiring policies and to try opening opportunities to qualified returning citizens. 

Last March, the Hartford Foundation worked with the Greater Hartford Reentry Council, as well as with the City of Hartford and MetroHartford Alliance to hold a reentry job fair that brought together local businesses, nonprofit organizations, state officials, and returning citizens to hear from employers and returning citizens about their experiences. The fair also provided returning citizens the opportunity to meet with local employers who have expressed a willingness to hire previously incarcerated individuals. The event was a success, but efforts like this need to become more commonplace and done throughout the state.   

Many of employers who have hired previously incarcerated people discuss how returning citizens have often already received training and credentials and are not only ready to work, but also eager to prove their worth. Any way the state can do more to cultivate this type of peer to peer learning to encourage employers to consider just hiring one returning citizen would be worth serious consideration. 

We know that encouraging employers to take the first step to hire a returning citizen is key, but we also know from our work that tax incentives alone will not address the persistent stereotypes that exist about people who have spent time in prison.  Attractive tax incentives that are well publicized and easy to access will help, but changing public perceptions of returning citizens will require a great deal of work but could produce greater returns.    

The Foundation also supports the provision in the bill to allow businesses access to Neighborhood Assistance Act tax credits when they provide support to nonprofit organizations that hire returning citizens. As a major funder of nonprofit organizations, we support efforts to incentivize the private sector to provide support to our community based organizations that are more willing to hire previously incarcerated individuals.

We appreciate working in partnership with all of you to ensure that all our residents can thrive and contribute to the Connecticut’s growth.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony.


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