Government Programs That Help Felons Get Jobs

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 8, 2021

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In the United States, there are roughly 24 million people who have a felony on their criminal record. The mark of a felony has many negative repercussions on a person’s life, and one of the biggest challenges for re-entry is landing a job.

Despite the struggle to reenter the workforce after being incarcerated, it is a very possible and realistic goal that can lead to a fulfilling, long-term career.

Programs That Help Felons Find Employment

Although it can feel helpless to search for a job with a felony on your record, there are options to aid you in this process. Below are just a few programs and resources that offer felons help in finding employment.

Federal Employer Incentive Programs

  1. The work opportunity tax credit. The work opportunity tax credit is a government program that aims to lend a helping hand to marginalized job-seekers by giving employers who hire them a tax credit. The tax credit can be up to $9,600 per employee who meets the work opportunity requirements.

    The tax credit is provided for hiring people from particular groups, such as ex-felons, veterans, and individuals receiving government assistance. These groups are focused on because they each have significant challenges standing in the way of obtaining a job.

    For the employer to receive the tax credit incentive, the ex-offender must be hired as an employee by the time they complete their probation and parole or within a year of being released from prison.

  2. The federal bonding program. This federal assistance program works by establishing agreed-upon insurance protection for employers when they hire individuals who could be considered risky.

    This helps find ex-felons, addicts, and people who haven’t had much work experience negotiate a place as an employee because it lessens the risk that they’ll cause harm to the business.

    The federal bonding program insures the business for up to $5,000 in damages for hiring an employee who comes from a risky background. In certain situations, reparations of up to $25,000 are supplied if requested by the employer. This insurance is provided at no cost to the employee or their employer.

    The federally provided insurance lasts for six months, at which point the employee continues work uninsured or the employer pays for extra months of insurance.

Individual Organizations Providing Support For Felons

  1. Help for Felons is a website that provides a wealth of knowledge and support for individuals who have recently been released from prison. Their mission is to provide help to ex-offenders with assistance in all aspects of re-entry back into society.

    A lot of the resources on Help for Felons involves employment opportunities. This includes a job search tool that only shows felon-friendly options and lists the best career paths for individuals with a criminal background.

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time

    In addition to career assistance and advice, Help for Felons also provides help in other hurdles they will likely face.

    This includes:

    • Felon-friendly housing resources

    • Food stamp information

    • Book recommendations for newly released felons

    • Loans and grants for felons

    • Legal information

  2. This organization provides similar help and resources that Help for Felons does, including a job board that posts felon-friendly jobs, housing, and legal information. However, it also presents additional information for employers interested in hiring a felon to work on their team.

    The Jobs for Felons Hub website features a blog that provides useful information for ex-convicts looking for employment. The topics covered mostly include articles about larger employers and whether they hire felons or not.

    If you’re interested in working with a specific retailer, such as Staples or Petco, their blog posts have a lot of information about their felon acceptance and other aspects of the hiring process.

  3. Another option for a website that supplies extensive research and resources to help ex-convicts transition into a lucrative career is Once again, this website provides many similar tools to the two previous, but it also has some unique added elements.

    The blog is extensive. It has more resources than most people would know what to do with. Their articles cover broad topics such as “200+ companies that hire felons in 2020” to more niche focuses like, “How far back do background checks go?”. A lot of the information they provide is an interesting read for anyone and is especially helpful for felons.

    Unlike some of the other resources, also supplies educational support. A lot of their blog articles involve school and study-related topics. If you’re a felon who is curious about what options they have to go back to school, this is an excellent resource.

Movements to Help Felons Get Jobs

  1. Fair Chance Business Pledge. Though a fairly new concept proposed in 2016 under the Obama-administration, the Fair Chance Business Pledge has done a lot of good for ex-felons in need of jobs.

    The pledge was initially put forth in an effort to supply second chances to Americans who need them, such as ex-offenders. It’s given weight to the concept of reformation by allowing inmates to leave prison and still have a chance at a career.

    It is a pledge that employers sign and take on to hire employees based on merit and not exclude applicants because of a criminal record. They agree to give any job applicant equal consideration regardless of background. In signing this pledge, the employers agree to treat employees who are ex-convicts the same way they would with any other employ.

    Once signing the Fair Chance Business Pledge, the company is added to a running list of other businesses who agreed to uphold the same behavior. The Fair Chance Business Pledge was created with the knowledge in mind that upwards of 70 million Americans have some sort of criminal record that makes it more difficult for them to get jobs, and they deserve a second chance.

    Requirements for employers signing the pledge include:

    • Promoting Fair Chance business practices (Delaying criminal history questions until the end of the hiring process, using accurate background checking systems, hosting Fair Chance job fairs, etc.)

    • Taking Action in the Community (Providing work supplies for individuals in need, supporting reentry programs, mentoring children with parents in prison)

Examples of Businesses that Hire Felons in 2020

It’s overwhelming to go through all the programs and resources that could land you a job as a felon. Sometimes it’s more beneficial and easier to go straight to the source of companies that actively hire individuals with criminal records, either by signing the Fair Chance Business Pledge, or speaking candidly about the matter.

Below are twenty companies that are open to hiring felons in 2020:

  1. Goodwill

  2. Hilton Hotels

  3. Starbucks

  4. Dollar Tree

  5. General Electric

  6. AMC Theatres

  7. Best Western

  8. AVIS Budget Car Rental

  9. Blue Bell Ice Cream

  10. United Airlines

  11. Google

  12. Allstate Insurance

  13. Walmart

  14. Delta Airlines

  15. Stop & Shop

  16. AT&T

  17. The Coca-Cola Company

  18. United Parcel Service

  19. Knight Transportation

  20. Amazon Warehouse

Tips for Felons Looking for a Job

  1. Do research. The key to any successful job search is using research to your benefit. More information is available for free online about the hiring process, felon resources, and statewide job data than anyone could read in a single lifetime.

    Take advantage of the resources available to make yourself the best possible candidate for a job opening.

  2. Be honest in the application process. It’s always important to be honest when you’re applying and interviewing for a job. However, this is crucial for ex-convicts looking for work because there are already negative presumptions that hinder their job-search efforts.

    If an employer finds out that you’ve been untruthful in your application or interview, there’s no way that they’ll look past a criminal background and hire you.

    Even though it’s intimidating to tell a potential employer that you have a felony on your record, it’s necessary to being perceived as an applicant with integrity and taking a step in a positive direction.

  3. Consider going back to school. Having a degree or certification in a particular skill only helps your chances of landing a job. It makes you a more competitive candidate, and your resume stands out due to your qualifications.

    While going back to school to pursue a career after incarceration isn’t an option for everyone, you may be surprised to find how many educational opportunities there are for individuals in this situation.

  4. Apply to many positions. While the general advice for applying to jobs is to be picky and only send a resume to positions that completely match your ideal position, this isn’t effective for a person with a criminal record.

    Instead, try to get an application out to as many positions as possible to improve your odds of hearing back. It’s always better to have more options when you’re looking for a professional position as a felon.

  5. Have a positive attitude. Perhaps the best piece of advice to take in as an ex-offender looking for a job is to maintain a positive attitude. Although the process towards reentry and attaining a paid position can be bleak at times, there’s something worth working towards. Stick with it and remember that there’s a job opportunity out there for you.

Take the hassle out of your job search & get an offer faster
Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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