Kent residents with felony convictions struggling to find a job can learn how to make that challenge a little easier at a forum Saturday at Kent City Council chambers from 10 a.m. to noon.
Representatives from the Portage County Community Action Council and Towards Employment, a Cleveland-based jobs assistance firm, will hold the forum to explain Ohio Senate Bill 337, the Collateral-Sanctions Reform Bill, passed by the Ohio legislature last month to help people with felonies find jobs.
Among its highlights, the bill loosens job restrictions for job applicants who obtain a certificate of qualifications for employment, according to the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.
"A license applicant with a CQE is entitled to individualized consideration by the relevant agency, even if there is a law that would normally make that applicant ineligible because of his or her criminal record," according to a fact sheet from the justice and policy center. "In other words, a CQE converts a mandatory barrier into a discretionary one."
Collateral sanctions are a range of legal restrictions that diminish the rights and privileges of someone convicted of a felony, according to Towards Employment. Senate Bill 337, known as the collateral sanctions reform law, reduces the number of actual laws that prevent an Ohio resident with non-violent convictions from working in specific jobs.
People can apply for a CQE to lift mandatory sanctions and allow judges, employers and licensing boards to consider their work qualifications despite a past crime.
The law also addresses juvenile records, drivers-license suspensions, marijuana paraphernalia possession and other similar offenses.
Nearly 2 million people, or about 17 percent of the Ohio population, have criminal histories, according to Towards Employment.
"Recognizing that there are too many individuals who have steady work histories and/or strong technical skills that are now locked out of the job
market because of past mistakes, SB 337 modifies some legal restrictions," according to a press release from Towards Employment.
Kent City Council chambers are located at 325 S. DePeyster St. in the city hall complex across from Kent Fire Station One.