Georgia Small Businesses Support Criminal Justice Reforms to Address Workforce Challenges

Latest poll highlights support for Clean Slate policies to expand Georgia’s small business candidate pool
As the Georgia legislature starts its 2023 session, findings from a Small Business Majority poll released today reveal bipartisan support for criminal justice reforms at the state and federal levels, which includes Clean Slate policies that will address persistent workforce challenges.
Small businesses are a crucial part of Georgia’s economy and support 42.5% of the state’s workforce. Often celebrated for being small business-friendly, Georgia is home to 1.2 million small businesses. However, recruiting and hiring quality talent has created challenges for growing small businesses. Most states have not yet passed Clean Slate laws that seal qualifying criminal records if a person does not reoffend for a set period, including Georgia. The poll found that 86% of respondents agree that criminal justice reform, such as Clean Slate policies, will open a pool of job applicants for small businesses and help boost labor recruitment. Furthermore, 77% of respondents agree that removing barriers to employment for people with criminal records will save tax dollars by reducing recidivism and the need for long-term government assistance.
In addition to Clean Slate laws, most Georgia small business owners (85%) support reforms that allow people with old convictions fairer access to occupational licenses. Georgia oversees 42 licensure boards that guard entry to professions that are usually favorable and more attractive to individuals seeking second-chance opportunities.
“As a system-impacted small business owner, I’ve experienced several barriers to entrepreneurship and career advancement,” said Charlotte Garnes, Founder & Executive Director of ReNforce in Savannah. “Despite holding bachelor’s and master’s degrees, I was stigmatized by my criminal history when trying to reenter the workforce. And even when trying to start my own business, I faced challenges obtaining occupational licensing and ensuring that I paid the required associated fees. I am now proud to spearhead a nonprofit organization that strives to improve education on the benefits of second-chance hiring and advocate for policies that create more opportunities for system-impacted individuals.”
Despite ongoing challenges related to the pandemic, 85% of small business owners in Georgia remain optimistic about their business prospects and 74% will likely add employees over the next several months. This climate has opened the doors for more hiring opportunities; however, the poll also revealed that 54% of small businesses need help finding quality candidates. With 40% of adult Georgians having a criminal record and being mandated to undergo background checks, almost half of the potential candidate pool faces barriers to employment.
“Our poll reveals that Georgia small business owners share the belief that criminal justice reform would benefit the state’s economy,” said Rachel Shanklin, Georgia Director, Small Business Majority. “Enacting policies that help us reach a larger pool of candidates only makes sense. Through these reforms, Georgia can expand talent recruitment while also supporting entrepreneurship bolstered by a ready workforce that includes justice-impacted people.”
As the state legislature considers several measures that would directly impact small businesses and Georgia’s economy, the poll findings show that the small business community supports criminal justice reforms that will help boost workforce recruitment. During this legislative session, Georgia policymakers can improve hiring chances for justice-impacted individuals by supporting policies allowing employers to tap into an underutilized workforce.
This opinion poll, conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting for Small Business Majority, reflects the opinions of 100 small business owners from Georgia. The poll, conducted from September 13 through September 20, has a margin of error of +/-10% at a 95% confidence interval. Poll respondents identified with the following political parties: 41% Democrat, 30% Republican and 23% independent. The Georgia sample was part of a six-state poll of 600 small business owners. Read the full report at:

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