New bill proposed to provide tax credits when hiring former felons

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – HB1719 says in 2013 the recidivism rate for released prisoners was 52% within three years of release. 

State Representative Robin Lundstrum sponsored the bill and wants to incentivize businesses for taking a chance on hiring former felons. 

“Someone who is a small business owner or large business owner, they are taking a huge risk and we know that. So let’s make it an incentive, let’s reward someone that’s taking that risk,” Lundstrum said.

She says the state pays approximately $30,000 per year to house an inmate.  She believes the fiscal impact in favor would far outweigh the hit to the state’s revenue.

“If they’re out with a job that also means they’re paying back their fines and fees, they’re paying back their victim restitution, so it’s a win for counties, it’s a win for our state.” Lundstrum said.

Jayme Hayes works for Goodwill in Little Rock and has been convicted on drug charges and served prison time.

“Between both times I did a little over a year but then I did lots of time in county jail, multiple trips to county jail it’s kind of embarrassing the amount of times to county jail,” Hayes said.

When she was first released, she wanted to do right and for four months she did.  But when she couldn’t find any gainful employment, she fell back on what she knew in order to get by.

“When you get out and nobody’s giving you a job, you go back to what you think you know and what’s gotten you the quick money in the past and what also has landed you in prison,” Hayes said.

Hayes says the number one thing to help fight recidivism is work.

“You’re not going to be able to sustain being out and, you know, support yourself if you can’t work,” Hayes said.

Hayes likes the idea in Lundstrum’s bill that employers can only cash in on the tax credit after 12 consecutive months of employment. 

The breakdown of the tax credit would be:

  • After 12 consecutive months, a tax credit of $3,000
  • After 24 consecutive months,  a tax credit of $2,000
  • After 36 consecutive months, a tax credit of $1,000

Hayes appreciates the credit give employers time to invest in those felons as employees, “Incentivize them to keep them for long periods of time and kind of work through those issues with them I think that would be a good move.”

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