Portman, Peters Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Reentry Opportunities Through Skills Trainings & Apprenticeships 

July 31, 2020 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced bipartisan legislation that strengthens reentry programs that provide workforce training, as well as pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities. The Reentry Employment Opportunities Act would codify into law the U.S. Department of Labor’s Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) Program, which supports national, regional, and local organizations that administer skills training programs. The REO program provides critical opportunities for returning citizens to be able to have a smooth transition back into society and learn skills that will help them secure good jobs. 

“Providing reentry support services to vulnerable youth and young adults at risk of recidivism is vital to ensuring we give them a second chance at living up to their God-given potential,” said Senator Portman. “I am proud to introduce the Reentry Employment Opportunities Act with Senator Peters, which authorizes this important grant program that has been a successful pilot program at the Department of Labor. This bipartisan legislation builds on my previous work to ensure that those re-entering society have access to the skills training and jobs necessary to stay out of the criminal justice system and contribute to their communities.” 

“Michiganders who have paid their debt to society should be given an opportunity to secure a good job and begin a new chapter in their lives,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan, commonsense legislation would strengthen existing skills training and apprenticeship programs and help give Michiganders who have served their time a second chance. I’m proud to introduce this bill, and I will continue working towards improving reentry programs and addressing systemic injustices in society.” 

The bill has been endorsed by the National Action Network, the National Youth Employment Coalition, #Cut50, the Center for Law and Social Policy and the Campaign for Youth Justice. 

"There is an urgency to continue to support individuals returning home from prison,” said Michael Mendoza, National Director, #cut50. “This bill provides formerly incarcerated people with employment opportunities as well as job training and anti-recidivism programs which are both vital to successful reentry and obtaining a livable wage. When individuals who have been impacted by the criminal justice system are given a fair chance to rebuild their lives and create pathways for their future– jobs, housing, public safety, and equity can all improve. #cut50 is proud to join the bipartisan coalition that is calling for continued support for returning citizens to have access to a successful re-entry process. We applaud Senator Gary Peters and Senator Portman for their leadership on introducing this significant piece of legislation and look forward to finding innovative ways to transform our legal system. "

“Justice-involved youth face unique lived experiences including higher rates of trauma, violence, lack of social capital and higher unemployment rates,” said Thomas Showalter, Executive Director, National Youth Employment Coalition. “Every effort must be made to ensure that this vulnerable population is adequately equipped to re-enter society. The legislation led by Senator Peters and Senator Portman makes this goal possible by ensuring that organizations across the country have the funds and support to help justice-involved youth lead healthy and productive lives.” 

“The Reentry Employment Opportunities Program is critical to some of our nation's most vulnerable youth; those returning from incarceration,” said Marcy Mistrett, CEO, Campaign for Youth Justice. “The REO Program provides localities with funding to facilitate young people's re-entry into the labor market, including education, employment, service learning, and certification programs. Having dollars targeted to this unique population is critical, as we know, secure employment and a career track is critical to ensuring their success as young adults. We applaud Senator Peters and Senator Portman for introducing a bill to codify this important program." 

“Due to systemic discrimination and underinvestment, youth and adults impacted by the criminal justice system face nearly insurmountable barriers to finding quality employment,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “The Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) program is a critical investment in helping people connect to career pathways. CLASP is proud to endorse this legislation and will continue advocating to ensure that funding for historically oppressed communities remains a priority.” 

Currently, the REO program exists as a pilot program authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The First Step Act reauthorized the REO program when it was signed into law in 2018. However, because it currently exists as a pilot program, it does not have a dedicated funding stream and is funded through a piecemeal approach. This bipartisan bill would codify into law the REO program and provide it greater stability for the future.