|Expanding Opportunity: Employing the Formerly Incarcerated in the Green Economy|
|By National Employment Law Project / PolicyLink / Ella Baker Center for Human Rights|
The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provides $5 billion through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) under the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help weatherize one million low-income family homes—marking a tremendous increase from $227.2 and $250 million for WAP in FYs 2008 and 2009, respectively. This unprecedented allocation represents one of ARRA’s most important investments in equity. Low-income families, many of color, live in the nation’s oldest and most energy inefficient housing stock. As a result, our most vulnerable families are those most impacted by rising energy costs. With an estimated 87,000 jobs that will be created through WAP, many, including people with criminal records who are typically among the most difficult to employ, stand to benefit from new employment opportunities.
In this paper, the National Employment Law Project, with help from the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and PolicyLink, provides the necessary information to enable efficient and equitable hiring using WAP funds. This paper fills an important void by clearly explaining the laws regulating who can access these jobs, particularly as it pertains to people with criminal records, a population that faces significant barriers to securing employment. Due to fears, concerns regarding liability, blatant acts of discrimination, and plain confusion, people with criminal records struggle with successfully finding steady and meaningful employment, thus making reintegrating into society especially difficult. Yet, they are hardly the only ones hurt by these systemic failures. Their families and the communities where they reside also suffer.
This paper is intended to serve as an easy-to-use resource for agencies that oversee WAP programs, contractors, and education and training providers. Community organizations and advocates can also use the paper to promote fair opportunities for people with criminal records in the emerging green sector. The approaches presented can help all these groups in their work to overcome systemic barriers and fundamentally transform the opportunities of people with criminal records in society and build healthy communities of opportunity for all.
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