WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07) hosted a roundtable discussion at Gwinnett Technical College on her new legislation to assist incarcerated or previously incarcerated individuals with obtaining employment or credentials in skilled trades. Guests joined in discussing how Congresswoman Bourdeaux’s bipartisan Workforce Opportunity for Returning Citizens (WORC) Act can address America’s labor shortage issue while reducing unemployment and recidivism rates.
Rep. Bourdeaux was joined by Georgia State Representative Greg Kennard, Gwinnett Technical College Vice President of Economic Development Melvin Everson, Reform Georgia Executive Director, Maxwell Ruppersburg, Deirdra Cox and Dr. Rhonda Anderson of the Community Sustainability Enterprise, and Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Education, Talent, Leadership Development, Adam Farrand.
“Reducing recidivism rates and helping formerly incarcerated individuals get on their feet and integrate back into society is good for our community and good for our economy,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux. “I am grateful for all the local leaders who joined me to discuss how we as a community can come together to help give returning citizens a second chance. My bill helps those returning home after incarceration find stable employment by investing in workforce development and skilled trades programs. By providing these tools to help people get back on their feet, we can combat high rates of unemployment in recently released individuals and national workplace shortages”
Background: The United States currently has approximately 10.6 million job openings. According to the Department of Labor, employment in construction is more than 100,000 below its February 2020 peak, and employment in utilities has fallen by 9,000.
Formerly incarcerated people are unemployed at a rate of over 27% — several times higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate. Unemployment is highest within the first two years of release, suggesting that pre-and post-release employment services are critical in order to reduce recidivism and help incarcerated people quickly integrate back into society.
Experts and former justice-involved individuals alike believe that obtaining stable, high-quality employment is critical for successful re-entry following incarceration. Now more than ever, with the passing of the Infrastructure Innovation and Jobs Act, there will be hundreds of thousands of jobs available in construction, manufacturing, and skilled trades that could be filled by “returning citizens”.
The Workforce Opportunity for Returning Citizens (WORC) Act would amend the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to create a competitive grant program through the Department of Labor to award workforce grants to eligible entities that assist incarcerated or previously incarcerated individuals with obtaining employment or credentials in skilled trades such as plumbing, construction, masonry, electrical and more.
This bill would address America’s labor shortage issue while reducing the unemployment and recidivism rates of justice-involved individuals.
Specifically, the bill would:
- Support the development and expansion of education or workforce training programs that lead to employment opportunities for incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals, with preference given to programs that:
- Lead to jobs in skilled trades (ex. Welding, plumbing, construction, etc)
- Lead to the attainment of postsecondary credentials
- Entities eligible to receive funding under this bill would include:
- Local workforce boards
- Career and technical educational schools
- Intermediaries such as nonprofits
- Institutions of higher education, including a 2-year institution of higher education
- A combination or joint venture of the above
This legislation is endorsed by Vera Institute of Justice, Reform Georgia, NSPIRE Outreach, and Gwinnett Technical College and is co-sponsored by Congressman Jay Obernolte (R- CA-08) and Congressman Henry C. “Hank” Johnson Jr. (GA-04).
Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux lives with her family in Suwanee, Georgia, and represents Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the 117th Congress. Carolyn is a strong advocate for affordable health care, and economic recovery that puts workers and small businesses first, and investing in her district’s world-class public education system and transportation infrastructure.
Georgia’s fast-changing 7th Congressional District includes portions of the northeast Atlanta metropolitan area, including portions of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties and cities Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, Sugar Hill, Norcross, Cumming, Lawrenceville, Duluth, Snellville, Lilburn, Suwanee, Grayson, and Buford.