Nebraska’s unique position as an economic hub in the Midwest makes it a good source of jobs for its citizens. For people who have been released from prison, however, there are significant challenges to getting these jobs and moving on with their lives. This is true in any other state, as employers and landlords are wary of dealing with convicted felons.
The federal government has done its part through the creation of programs to help ex-felons and others who are similarly in need of help with jobs and housing. Approval is not automatic, and in some cases, it will be a lengthy process, as the waiting list for these benefits is usually long. Additionally, some ex-convicts will find that they are ineligible for these benefits due to the types of crimes they were convicted of. Two federal programs that provide assistance to former felons are:
- The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (http://www.doleta.gov/business/incentives/opptax/) (WOTC): This program is available in many states as a way to help felons get employed. The government gives an incentive to potential employers in the form of a tax credit if they hire these workers.
- The Federal Bonding Program (http://www.bonds4jobs.com/): The U.S. Department of Labour, through a partnership with the insurance brokerage firm The McLaughlin Company, offers Fidelity Bonds to potential employers.
These bonds act as security against any loss to the employer due to hiring an ex-felon. This allows applicants to freely disclose their criminal past on their job applications. It also gives the employer some peace of mind knowing that the government will stand the risk for any loss they suffer.
Joining the Nebraska Workforce
Any ex-felon with limited training should start with finding free programs that offer training in various areas. To successfully compete on the job market, former prisoners also need to know how to write a resume and cover letter as well as how to answer interview questions. Finding websites with useful information is one way to go about preparing for the task of finding employment as an ex-felon. Some of these websites are:
- The National Hire Network (http://www.hirenetwork.org/)
- Xamire.com (http://xamire.com/felony-friendly/nebraska.html)
- Jail To Jobs (http://www.jailtojob.com/Companies%20that%20Hire%20Ex-offenders%20and%20Felons.html)
Many ex-felons find jobs in nursing homes, as these institutions are usually in need of various categories of workers. This might be an opportunity to pursue a career as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). It is even possible to receive training at the same nursing home where you find employment.
If you are finding it difficult to get a job, it might be the time to consider doing your own thing. Many opportunities exist for ex-felons to start their own businesses using the skills they have. Websites such as the Small Business Association (http://www.sba.gov/) has information to help ex-felons start and successfully manage their own business.
Volunteering is also a good way for ex-felon to develop their skills. Even though this does not pay, the life experience is invaluable, and it may cause employers to look at you differently. This is a good way to demonstrate your intention to move beyond your criminal past and start over.
Tips for House Hunting with a Criminal Record
It is not just bad credit that spells bad news for people wanting to find a decent house to rent. Most landlords and property managers are reluctant to rent to people with criminal histories. This does not mean that you will never find suitable housing, but the process can be difficult.
Knowing where to look for a place to live is important if you have a felony conviction. It is always best to start by looking at single-occupancy homes rather than large apartment complexes. An individual homeowner may be more inclined to give second chances to an ex-felon.
The website for PATH (http://pathprogram.samhsa.gov/resource/housing-series-finding-housing-for-people-with-criminal-histories-51594.aspx) is a great resource for ex-felons who are looking for suitable housing. It gives these individuals some idea of what their rights are under the law.
It also outlines some of the factors which will make them ineligible for housing assistance. This website offers details on Public Housing Agencies (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/public_indian_housing/pha) (PHAs) and the methods by which they assess individual applications for housing.
Programs for Felons in Nebraska
The Heartland Reentry Aftercare (http://www.1011now.com/home/headlines/62473282.html) helps provide support to recently released inmates. The program helps ex-felons adjust to being free and getting back into society. The Nebraska Reentry Aftercare In-Action (http://volunteer.truist.com/huw/org/10537171623.html) program works as a covenant between volunteers and inmates. Help is given in the form of finding housing, job placement, and training. The period of the covenant is normally 12 months.
Of course, there are always felons who prefer to keep their conviction records off their records. If they are successful in doing this, it should be easier for them to access federal housing assistance and land jobs.
The Diversion Program (http://www.ericchandlerlaw.com/what-is-diversion-how-do-i-keep-a-conviction-off-of-my-record/) in Omaha NE can be helpful in this regard, but it is necessary to meet eligibility requirements. If any past conviction involved violence the applicant will be automatically ruled out.
This program works best for people who were convicted of minor offenses such as shoplifting.
Any former inmate needs to take the time to fully explore their options. Whether they choose to start their own business or start a career, there are organizations that can help. There is a wealth of information online about government programs and charitable organizations that can help give felons a fresh start.