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New Ohio Law and Federal Programs Help Employers Hire People Returning from Prison

In Ohio there were many laws preventing people with criminal records from working in certain kinds of jobs. In 2012, however, Ohio passed a new law that helps people returning from prison get jobs. Also, there are two federal programs that encourage employers to hire people with criminal backgrounds.

Under the new law people who committed nonviolent offenses can now work as optical dispensers, salvage dealers, hearing aid dealers and fitters, and can obtain licenses in cosmetology and construction. The new law also created Certificates of Qualification for Employment, which can help people get jobs they could not have had before. (More information about CQEs can be found in the article "Certificate of Qualification for Employment: New Help with Jobs for People with a Criminal Record," in this issue of The Alert.)

The CQE allows employers to hire people whose criminal record would have not allowed them to do the job before. Licensing boards can also grant a license to someone with a CQE who could not have obtained the license before. The CQE protects employers from any negligent hiring claim. There are some limits to using a CQE when applying for jobs in law enforcement, a pain clinic, and health care settings.

Employers can also benefit from programs that support hiring people with criminal backgrounds. First, the Workforce Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) can reduce an employer's federal income tax liability by as much as $2,400 per qualified new worker. There is no limit on the number of new hires claimed and the credit applies to wages paid to full-time, part-time and temporary employees. The employer must complete a one-page form before offering the job and another form within 28 days of hiring an eligible employee.

For more information on how to apply for the WOTC, contact the Ohio Department of Jobs and Families services at 1.888.296.7541, Option 9.

The second program, called Federal Bonding, protects employers financially who hire a job applicant who has a criminal history. Federal bonding reimburses employers for loss of money or property in the event that an employee covered by the bond is dishonest, commits theft, forgery, larceny, embezzlement of property or money. The bond coverage ranges from about $5,000 up to $25,000. The bond insurance is free to the employer. Coverage begins the first day of the applicant's employment and ends after six months.

For more information on how to access this coverage, contact Ohio's State Bureau of Quality and Community Partnerships at 614.728.1534.

This article was written by Bishara Addison of Towards Employment and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 2. Click here to read the full issue.

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