Being released from prison is a good thing. But it also means starting over, often with few resources. All the years you could have been building wealth will have gone to prison.
Your family may also have spent a good sum on lawyers’ fees. That often means they would have much less money to help you out. And at a time when you most need it.
For a fresh start, many felons will focus on finding a job and decent housing. Those with drive will also want to pursue some education. Government grants for felons can be a big help here.
Education is important when you want to build a career. Be it a white or blue collared job, some level of professional training will often be crucial. And this takes money.
Grants are a good source of funding if you can secure them. This is because, unlike loans, you do not need to repay them.
You may have to abide by certain terms. Such as using the money for a specified use. However, if you fulfill the terms, it is the best way to fund education or business.
Yes, you can also get a grant to fund a business. With all the difficulties felons face in finding good jobs, starting a business may be a great option. If you have business acumen and grit, self-employment can be your path to success.
While it is natural for a felon to start applying for jobs upon release, there are other options. Let’s now look at some of the grants accessible to felons that can help improve their quality of life.
As indicated, education is the key to career advancement. Many low entry positions also require some level of training. Mostly requiring computer knowledge and driving licenses, depending on the nature of the job.
If one, however, intends to boost their earning potential and climb the career ladder, advanced education is key. It is advisable to focus on degree options that offer the best return on investment. Even those that opt to start their own businesses can benefit from this.
There are also professional careers, like law, that require a certain level of education and licensing. These are much harder for a felon to achieve, but not impossible.
Luckily, most felonies are not a barrier to grants for education. The Pell Grant is a federally administered program for those with financial need. In more recent years, qualifying students have received about $6,000 annually.
Funding can, however, be more depending on some conditions. Those with a guardian that served and died in the military may qualify for this. They should have been under 24 years of age at the time of death and in college.
The basic requirements for a Pell Grant include:
- Be a US citizen
- Have a high school diploma, or GED
- If a male, be registered for US Selective Service
- Demonstrate financial need
- Been accepted to an eligible undergraduate program
Those convicted of drug distribution offenses are typically barred. This is if the crime took place while on federal assistance. Successfully undertaking a drug rehab program and passing two random drug tests can however restore eligibility.
Those convicted of forcible or non-forcible sexual offenses can also be barred. This occurs where the offender has been placed under involuntary civil commitment.
To maintain your grant, you will need to stay enrolled, maintain a good GPA, and avoid drug offenses.
Tips On Choosing a Degree Program
As mentioned, you will need to be accepted to a college program before applying for a Pell Grant. It is vital to wisely consider what program you will pursue.
Keep in mind the trials that felons suffer when pursuing careers that require licensing. You may find it impossible to practice in your chosen field if the concerned board rejects you. There have been some success stories, but can be a difficult road.
Focus on career choices that are more historically favorable to felons.
Also, be sure that the school accepts felons. Some colleges do question criminal history on applications. Always answer honestly.
Colleges typically work on a case by case basis. They will rarely reject an application solely based on this.
It is usually those with a violent and repeat-offending history that are prevented from joining on-campus programs. In such instances, you may want to consider an accredited online program.
Let’s look at additional government assistance that can make re-entry in the workplace easier.
Reentry Employment Opportunities
The Federal Bonding Program assists felons through fidelity bonding. This is an insurance offered to employers. It indemnifies them if they suffer loss of property or money through the crimes by felon employees.
While this cover does not put money in the pocket of a felon, it does help them secure jobs. It acts as a sort of guarantee against the risk of hiring someone with a dishonest past. The bond is valid for the first 6 months of employment without cost to the employer or employee.
Many employers are not aware of this program. If notified, it has proven helpful in encouraging them to hire felons.
Through the Clean Slate Clearinghouse, felons can access resources on records clearance. This info pertains to all states. Through record clearing, a felon’s history becomes inaccessible to the public.
It means generating a clean background check. Background checks that disclose past convictions are often a barrier to employment and even housing.
These options are a good way for felons to more easily get a fresh start. For the more entrepreneurial-minded, let’s move on to business grants.
Just as with education grants, there are no business grants specifically designed for felons. However, you can apply for the same federal grants and loans as non-felons.
A good place to start would be the grants.gov website. Multiple business grants are offered here with differing requirements. Offers do regularly change so be sure to keep checking.
SBA microloans are offered through the Small Business Administration. These funds are targeted to assist startups and boost small businesses. The main recipients are special interest groups like lower income, women, minorities, and veterans.
The loans are however meant to be repaid. The funding is done through approved lenders that assess candidates. The program then guarantees a portion of the loan, helping lighten the load on the collateral need.
If you fall under these categories, you may qualify for a small loan under $50,000. More recently, these loans have averaged about $13,000.
There is no special loan for felons, but if you otherwise qualify, your criminal past will not count. You will, however, need to have a solid business plan and good credit.
The government is not the only institution wanting to help ex-cons. There are many privately funded organizations and programs that back second chances. They are just as willing to support felons as much as non-felons.
Many colleges offer scholarship opportunities that felons can tap into. Most are open to any qualifying student. Something as simple as writing an essay can be good enough to gain you a nice sum.
For those looking to start a business, with the right idea you can get crowdsourced funding. Like grants, this money is not usually repaid. You will need to make your pitch to prospective investors on an online platform.
You may, however, be better able to attract investors if you offer incentives like shareholding. Your success will however mostly depend on how innovative an idea you have and how well you present it.
Angel investor funding is another good option. Here you share ownership of the business with the investor and share the profits. If, however, the business fails, you will not be obligated to repay the investors.
Inmates to Entrepreneurs is a nonprofit initiative that helps inmates interested in starting a business when released. They provide training and learning resources on a variety of business areas such as record-keeping and marketing.
There are several ways a felon can rebuild their life after release. A criminal history is a handicap but does not disqualify you from all forms of government assistance.
Sit down and evaluate your options and how you can start over. Education is a good path to pursue at whatever age. Carefully choose the best career path and seek whatever public or private assistance you qualify for.
Also, make use of the resources available for work reentry. This can make an employer reconsider hiring you knowing there is a cover.
If starting a business is preferable, go for it. You have options. All you need to do is take a shot.