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Small business reforms could expand workforce possibilities

One solution is to create more opportunities for people with criminal records. 

The COVID-19 pandemic left small business owners desperate to find employees, a problem that has not gone away. A recent poll conducted by Small Business Majority revealed that small business owners support legislation that would remove barriers to finding quality candidates.

The Small Business Majority report revealed that 66% of small business owners stated their top challenge was finding and hiring quality candidates. Small businesses employ nearly 47% of Colorado’s private-sector workforce. Currently, Colorado ranks the highest in the nation for worker shortages. 

Small business owners are looking for help to solve the problem that is preventing their businesses from growing, the report stated. 

One solution is to create more opportunities for people with criminal records. 

“(Seventy-six percent) believe that state licensing boards should consider the nature of the offense when deciding whether to deny a license, rather than deny a license broadly for any felony conviction,” according to the report. 

“Reducing barriers to occupational licensing for justice-impacted individuals is an important step to addressing Colorado’s workforce shortage challenges and empowering innovators to take the entrepreneurial plunge,” said Lindsey Vigoda, Colorado Director for Small Business Majority. “Colorado has a vast untapped pool of candidates who are hindered from pursuing workforce opportunities because of barriers to licenses. It’s time to enact proposals to help support aspiring entrepreneurs and workers with previous criminal records to become successful and integral community members.”

Colorado’s legislature is considering a bill that would address this issue. The bill would create a uniform process that prevents the automatic denial of an applicant due to a criminal record. The legislation would require state regulators to look at each applicant’s criminal record and current circumstances.

“This bill is about second chances and not allowing government to get in the way of a person being able to be gainfully employed, and to earn an income, put a roof over their head, feed themselves and their families,” Rep. Shannon Bird of Westminster said while presenting the bill in February.

Regulators would still be able to consider violent felonies and misdemeanors when withholding certifications and licenses. However, those with nonviolent criminal convictions that is three years or older would be considered the same as those without a criminal record. 

“These politically diverse small business owners believe these measures would enable employers to tap into an underutilized workforce and open up opportunities for entrepreneurship,” according to the news release.


Macie May

About the Author: Macie May

Macie May has built her career in community journalism serving local Colorado communities since 2017.
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