Federal grant helps ex-offenders find jobs


Ex-offenders soon will have more opportunities to find employment, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Michigan Talent Investment Agency (TIA) revealed the U.S. department will provide a $100,000 Fidelity Bonding Demonstration grant. The four-year grant allows for more funded resources for the Fidelity Bonding Program, which is coordinated by every Michigan Works! Agency. The agency provides services for workforce development.

The fidelity bond is a business insurance policy that insures employers who hire individuals with a criminal record in the event they commit a crime, such as theft, forgery, larceny and embezzlement.

The bond program gives employers the incentive to hire high-risk individuals, which include those with poor credit records including bankruptcies, recovering substance misuse users, ex-offenders, welfare assistance recipients who have a lack of work history, youth in apprenticeships and those who were dishonorably discharged from military service.

According to Stepheni Willis, TIA spokeswoman, more than one bond for a particular individual may be necessary depending upon the potential risk to the employer who is hiring the individual given a factor/factors in the individual’s personal background.

Employers must offer 30 hours or more per week of full-time employment for six consecutive months with the stipulation that the high-risk job seeker needs to be bonded.

If employers decide to hire an individual under the Fidelity Bonding Program, they’ll receive a free bond for the first six months of employment. Bond amounts are between $5,000 and $25,000 with no deductible and an extended coverage directly from the Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America, among other things.

The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) projects releasing between 8,800 and 9,500 parolees each year for the next four years with an estimated total of 36,500 parolees.

Also, the MDOC projects about 65% of the estimated parolees have an identified substance misuse issue, such as opioid addiction.

In 2018, there were a total of 17 fidelity bonds statewide for five qualifying individuals. One of those bonds was issued to an individual in West Michigan, according to Willis.

Chris Becker, Kent County prosecutor, said there were over 7,500 warrants issued and nearly 3,500 of those warrants were denied in 2018 because sometimes there wasn’t enough evidence to present a case. In April, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office said there are about 5,000 convictions made in the county per year. 

The TIA anticipates 600 ex-offenders will be beneficiaries of the grant.

“We will strengthen our partnership with the MDOC and their Vocational Village, as well as leverage the Veterans Reemployment Workshops that are currently being conducted in multiple state prison facilities,” said Stephanie Beckhorn, acting director of the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan. “Both offer excellent opportunities to increase knowledge and utilization of the Fidelity Bonding Program.”

Vocational Village is a skilled trades training program that aims to provide a learning community for prisoners who want to complete career and technical education.

Some of the vocational trade training includes carpentry, plumbing, welding, masonry and electrical work.

The Veterans Reemployment Workshop includes four two-hour blocks of instruction within the prison and covers topics such as the state workforce system, résumé writing, interview skills, resources available upon release and military transferable skills.

“These provide a chance for individuals to receive necessary treatment and potentially avoid incarceration,” Beckhorn said. “The state also will promote the Fidelity Bonding Program as an important resource for individuals involved with the courts who are having difficulty obtaining employment.”

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