Depending on the source, the number of current or ex-felons in the United States ranges from about 17 million to more than 24 million. Every year, over 600,000 people will leave prison and attempt to rejoin their neighbors as productive members of society.
And while those with felony convictions may have made mistakes in the past that does not mean that they cannot be rehabilitated or become upstanding, contributing members of society. Fortunately, for those who are committed to reform, there are a number of sources of government grants for felons to help them turn their lives around.
Expectation VS Reality for Felons
In an ideal world, the purpose of the correctional system is to persons convicted of a crime a chance to learn from their errors and reintegrate back into society as law-abiding, productive citizens. Unfortunately for many, the reality is that there are challenges for felons, especially if they want to start anew and establish their businesses. The sad fact is that some studies show that about three-quarters of felons will be re-arrested within five years of their release.
Still, the outlook is not that bleak. According to a study led by the U.S. Bureau of Justice, 12.5% of employers say they would consider employing a rehabilitated felon in their firms, provided the applicant had the right skill sets. But even so, many felons lack basic education such as high school diplomas, vocational training, college degrees, they often lack the job skill sets that employers desire.
But as someone who previously worked with Fern House, an organization that was launched primarily to work with men just getting out of jail and prison, many felons actually have a high degree of motivation and discipline--it’s just often directed at the wrong endeavors.
6 Reliable Government Grants for Felons
Fortunately, there are a number of different grant programs and other supportive resources to help felons turn their lives around and establish themselves as responsible, productive citizens. Eligibility requirements are in place for these felon grants but they are ultimately created to help them turn over a new leaf.
1. Federal Education Loans and Grants for Felons
While the majority of standard federal student aid loans and grants are not available to felons, Pell Grants are the sole exception. This is according to StudentAid.gov. While being a felon is not a disqualification, a felony drug conviction is. However, if the felon completes an approved drug rehabilitation program, Pell Grants for felons become available. In all cases financial need is the primary eligibility requirement. If you want to learn a skill or to get an education that will serve as the foundation of a business, you can apply for this education grant for felons.
HelpForFelons.org is a valuable resource for felons, ex-inmates and even current inmates. The organization offers resources for finding jobs, finding loans and grants for felons, connecting with legal resources, securing housing and more. Overall, HelpForFelons.org offers a wealth of information and resources for felons who want to turn their lives around. The site even offers a way for felons to earn money fast (legally of course)!
3. Inmates to Entrepreneurs
As I said, felons and ex-inmates can often make great entrepreneurs. In fact, there are a number of fairly well-known, successful individuals with a felony background. Inmates to Entrepreneurs helps felons become successful entrepreneurs. With funding from Sageworks, this program is a non-profit community outreach that assists former inmates in starting their businesses and becoming productive participants of society. The organization offers courses in-person, online and within certain correctional facilities.
Grants.gov is the official website for all federal government grants and cooperative agreement opportunities. The site is 100% free and offers an advanced search function that allows you to search by eligibility. While they don’t have specific grants catered for felons, you may still find business grants for felons that may work for you. It’s time to move past your label as a felon and focus on what you can do as a productive member of society.
As noted, once they return to society, most former felons typically experience an unemployment rate that is five times higher than the national average. And though they may have difficulty securing loans for felons or grants for felons, they can still always turn to crowdfunding. from the government or private organizations. But if they have a brilliant idea for a business, they don’t have to let their past hamper their progress. Crowdfunding websites such as IndieGogo, GoFundMe and others, can provide funding for felons to help them launch their own business.
6. Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs)
The Small Business Administration operates Small Business Development Centers throughout the United States. They exist to help people of all types and backgrounds who are passionate about starting a small business, including ex-inmates and felons, SBDSs are free for anyone and provide insight, counseling from business experts, and a host of other resources to help would-be entrepreneurs take their dreams from vision to reality.
Expert’s Tips: Putting Your Past as a Felon Behind You
Having more than 12 years of experience helping ex-inmates and felons turn their lives around, I know putting the past behind you is no easy task. But I do know that if you have the commitment, drive and willingness to stick with it, change is indeed possible.
While USGG does not work with individuals to help them write grant proposals, financial aid documents, or similar, I strongly encourage you to visit one of the organizations listed above to help you secure business grants for felons, education grants for felons or other types of resources to help you along the way. But if you are a felon who owns an established eligible business or other type of organization, contact us here and see if we can help you secure the funding you need.