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February 2020

5 Ways Volunteering Can Help Ex-Felons Get a Job

When it comes to getting a job, it can be tough for ex-felons. Even though they’ve served their time, their records can follow them into the job market. Unless an employer is willing to take a chance on them, they can be unemployable.

But there may be a way to increase their odds of getting hired. Through volunteering.

Volunteering Improves Skills

Volunteering can help ex-felons improve the skills they have and develop new skills. Volunteers have the opportunity to practice the skills they have and try new things usually in a low-pressure environment. Employers are never going to pass on hiring someone just because they know too many things.

Volunteering Helps You Meet New People

It seems like everyone knows a guy who knows a guy who might have a job opening. That’s great in theory, but sometimes that circle of friends gets exhausted pretty quickly.

Volunteering is a great way to get out there and meet a whole new circle of friends and that new connection may just lead to a new job.

Volunteering Offers Proof Through Hard Work

For ex-felons especially, it can be difficult to prove to a potential employer that they are worth the risk. However, through volunteering, an ex-felon has the opportunity to prove that he or she is reliable, respectful, and hard-working. When an employer sees this, he or she is much more likely to take a chance and offer a paid position.

As the adage goes, the proof is in the pudding.

The Psychological Benefit of Volunteering

Don’t underestimate the psychological benefit of volunteering. It can be mentally trying to hear rejection after rejection. Studies have shown that volunteering helps lift spirits and make people feel needed.

According to, volunteering helps you counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. It helps you combat depression; it increases your self-confidence and your sense of purpose.

Volunteering Helps Prevent Recidivism

Along with the mental health aspect of volunteering, there’s also another positive that comes out of it. According to the site Good Hire, volunteering curbs criminal thinking. “When a former offender understands the concept of ‘giving back’ through volunteering, that goes a very long way towards changing negative thought patterns,” the site says.

Tips for Volunteering

Volunteering isn’t just something to do. Like a job search, ex-felons should put thought into where they want to volunteer and why. Here are some tips for ex-felons considering the volunteer route.

  • Choose a volunteer opportunity that interests you. You’re far more likely to work hard and give your best effort if you like or believe in what you’re doing.
  • Treat your volunteer work like paid work. Show up on time, pay attention, and stay off your phone. Show your managers and anyone else who sees you what it would be like to work with you if you were paid for your work.
  • Use your skills and knowledge. Think of this as a long, drawn-out job interview. You want to impress. If you have a skill that can impress, use it.

Why the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) May Be the Tax Credit Your Employees are Missing

In 2018, the tax code was changed and many of those changes dealt with the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For higher wage earners, these changes weren’t helpful. For low wage earners, the changes have meant smaller tax payments and sometimes even refunds.

If you’re a company that takes advantage of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) then odds are you have one or more employees that could take advantage of the 2018 changes to the EITC. But most of your employees may not know that’s an option.

What is the Earned Income Tax Credit?

The very first line on the IRS webpage says, “The Earned Income Tax Credit, EITC or EIC, is a benefit for working people with low to moderate income…EITC reduces the amount of tax you owe and may give you a refund.”

To qualify for the EITC, you must earn income by working for someone or by running or owning your own business. The IRS has a whole list of questions that will help you determine if you qualify for the EITC. You can find it here.

The maximum income you are allowed to earn and still qualify for the EITC will vary depending on whether you’re married or single and how many children you claim as dependents. There’s a full table here.

Why employees need to get new advice about the Earned Income Tax Credit every year

The one thing employees need to know is just because they qualified for the EITC last tax season, it does not mean that they automatically qualify for the EITC this tax season. By the same token, just because they didn’t qualify last tax season, they could qualify this tax season.

Several life situations can disqualify an employee from the EITC or qualify an employee that did not qualify before, such as:

  • A new job;
  • A change in the spouse’s employment’;
  • Unemployment;
  • A change in marital status;
  • Dependent children becoming adults.

If one or more of these things change, then the employee can move into or out of the tax bracket that allows him or her to take advantage of the EITC.

How can an employee find out if they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit?

If the IRS paperwork is too confusing, and it can be, the IRS has other ways to help low-income earners get tax advice. The IRS website has a search tool to help people find free tax help. In many instances, there are translators on-site for the key languages such as Spanish, Chinese, French, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

You can find the locator tool here.

Be careful offering tax advice to employees

Lastly, a disclaimer to keep you out of legal trouble.

You need to be very careful when talking about taxes with your employees. While you may be business savvy and have the answers they are looking for, unless you’re a licensed tax professional you cannot give tax advice.

You cannot advise an employee to do something or not do something financially, even if it’s in his or her best interest.

You also cannot help him or her fill out any tax forms. Once again, you are not a licensed tax professional.

What you can do is make employees aware of some of the opportunities available to them and allow them to look into it on their own.

Top Franchises for Military Veterans and Ways to Get Started

For many military veterans, the idea of finding a civilian job can be a scary thing. It’s a major change from the years they spent in service to our country. For some veterans, the idea of putting those leadership skills to good use as a small business owner is much more appealing. Thankfully, the federal government and some of the nation’s biggest companies want to make it easy for veterans to do just that.

Top Types of Franchises for Military Veterans takes the time to look at franchises every year and determine which ones are trending in the right direction and which ones aren’t worth the time. The company’s editorial team evaluates franchises overall but also creates a special list just for military veterans.

The team looks at things like discounts offered to veterans, help and training offered, and company health when determining the best franchises for veterans looking to own their own businesses.

Below are some of the key industries at the top of’s list.

Travel Agencies

According to, one of the best types of franchises for veterans to own is a travel agency. The site names Dream Vacations as it’s number one franchise for veterans. Dream Vacations offers 20 percent off the franchise fee for veterans and waives the training fee. It also helps the veteran with marketing assets. Startup costs are also relatively reasonable.

Another travel agency making the list is Cruise Planners.

Premium Tool Sales

The next few spots on’s list include premium tool retailers Snap-on Tools, Matco Tools, and Mac Tools. All three companies offer discounts on initial inventory so veterans can get the business started on the right foot.

Auto Repair says companies like Precision Tune Auto Care and Grease Monkey are ideal for veterans, especially ones that worked in a mechanic role while serving. Both companies offer discounts on franchise fees for veterans as well as reduced royalties for the first few years in business.

Restaurants/Food Services

Also making the list, several restaurants and other food providers. Captain D’s Seafood Kitchen offers veterans 50 percent off the franchise fee and a reduced royalty for the first year. Meanwhile, Baskin-Robbins will waive the fee for the first franchise and offer a reduced royalty fee for the first five years.


Another industry making the top 25 on’s list, athletic gyms. Anytime Fitness offers a discounted franchise fee to veterans, while Crunch Fitness offers 20 percent off franchise fees and royalties when you purchase three or more gyms.

Getting a Veteran Run Franchise Started

Starting a franchise is much more than just determining that you want to start a franchise. U.S. Veterans Magazine has an article about what you need to think about and consider as you’re contemplating starting a franchise as well as some questions that you need to ask yourself and your family.

Funding a Veteran Run Franchise

You’ll also need to think about funding. Unless you’re independently wealthy, odds are you’ll need some financing help to get your business off the ground.

The Small Business Administration offers guaranteed loans for veterans and training to help new small business owners get started. You can find out more about those resources here.

There are also special funding options for disabled veterans through the Small Business Administration.

Organizations like StreetShares Foundation offer support to veterans starting their own businesses, while the Hivers and Strivers Angel Fund is specifically aimed at helping military academy graduates get their small businesses off the ground.

Voting Rights for Felons – Where Each State Stands Heading into the 2020 Presidential Election

As the vote for the next President of the United States nears, the disenfranchisement of America’s felons is once again making headlines.

According to NBC News, 6.1 million Americans were unable to vote in 2016—the last time Americans elected a president—even though they had served their time and were now free from prison. This spotlight on disenfranchised felons prompted multiple states to reassess their voting laws in the past four years and consider reinstating the voting rights of felons.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a great in-depth breakdown of how each state distributes its voting rights to ex-felons, but you can also read below for more details.

States where felons never lose their voting rights

In two states, Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their voting rights. That means even from prison, felons are allowed to vote.

States that automatically restore a felon’s right to vote after release

16 states and the District of Columbia will automatically restore a felon’s right to vote once they are released from prison, these states are:

  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland*
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah

*In Maryland, there is an exception. Anyone who is convicted of buying or selling votes will not receive his/her right to vote back unless he/she is pardoned by the state’s governor.

Lost until parole and/or probation is complete

In 21 states, felons receive their voting rights back only after they complete their parole and/or probation; they are:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California**
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York***
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

**In 2016, legislators in the state of California voted to allow inmates in county jails the ability to vote. Felons in state or federal prison must still wait until their parole and/or probation is complete before their ability to vote is restored.

***In New York the Attorney General’s website says that felons must still wait until their parole has expired, they have been pardoned or their maximum sentence has expired. According to the Brennan Center, in 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo started using his pardon power to give felons released from prison the right to vote.

All other states

In the rest of the states, a felon’s voting rights are lost until the sentence is complete. In some cases, there is also a waiting period after the completion of the sentence. Some of the states are trying to adjust their laws to allow some felons voting rights, but the changes vary from state to state.


In Alabama, whether or not a felon is allowed to vote after release depends on the crime for which he/she was convicted. For example, felons who have committed dangerous crimes like murder or rape cannot vote unless they receive a full pardon from the Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Alabama has always required felons who have committed crimes of moral turpitude to re-apply for the right to vote. However, until 2017, the state did not define what was considered moral turpitude and what was not. The state has now defined the 47 crimes that are considered crimes of moral turpitude.

Felons who have committed any other crimes will automatically have their voting rights restored when they are released from prison and simply need to re-register to vote.


The ACLU of Alabama has more details on Alabama’s voting laws regarding felons.


According to the ACLU in Arizona, Arizona will automatically restore the voting rights of a first-time offender, provided the offender completes probation and pays any owed fines or restitution. Felons who have committed two or more felonies may also receive their voting rights back, but there are more requirements that they will have to meet before those rights are restored.


According to the website Nonprofit Vote, most felons in Delaware automatically receive their voting rights back after they complete their sentence, parole, and probation. People who commit murder, bribery or a sex offense permanently lose their voting rights.


The court system is currently fighting over what is required to allow felons released from prison the right to vote. Last year, the legislature passed a bill that would require felons to pay off all court fees and fines before their sentence was considered complete. They would not receive their voting rights back until the sentence was complete. However, critics took the bill to court calling it a “poll tax”. In October, a U.S. District judge placed a preliminary injunction on the bill. (Source: NBC News)

As of now, felons who have served their sentence can vote if all court fees and fines are paid, but that could change if the judge’s ruling is challenged.


In Iowa, anyone convicted of a felony permanently loses the right to vote or hold public office unless they apply for and are granted the restoration of their voting rights. The state’s governor is currently working to change the state constitution to allow felons the right to vote once they have been released from prison but has so far been unsuccessful.


According to the Kentucky Department of Corrections, anyone who has been convicted of a felony loses the right to vote or hold public office. They can apply to have their civil rights restored with the Governor of Kentucky if they have their Final Discharge papers from parole or their sentence has expired. Applicants cannot be under felony indictment, have pending charges or owe any fines or restitution.


A federal court is currently deciding whether some felons within the state will receive their right to vote back. According to the Associated Press, the state currently bans people convicted of 22 crimes including murder, forgery, bigamy, timber larceny and carjacking from voting after they are released. To have the rights restored, each felon must get a pardon from the governor or ask the state legislature to pass a bill that restores their right to vote.

If an individual has not committed one of the 22 offenses listed by the state of Mississippi, they will automatically have their voting rights restored.


There is a two-year waiting period in Nebraska before a felon who has completed his/her sentence is allowed to vote. (Source: Nebraska State Legislature)


According to Tennessee’s Secretary of State’s website, a felon can receive his/her voting rights back if his/her record is expunged by the governor or if the state agrees to restore his/her voting rights. A felon must apply to have his/her voting rights restored.

Felons who have committed what’s called an “infamous crime” may never receive their right to vote back. The Secretary of State of Tennessee’s website has a list of those crimes.


The state of Virginia will not allow felons to vote unless the Governor or another appropriate authority reinstate the right to vote to that specific individual. In 2016, then-Governor Terry McAuliffe tried to implement an executive order that would automatically restore the voting rights of felons who had completed their prison sentence and terms of parole or probation, but that was blocked by the Virginia Supreme Court.

As a result, WAMU reports that McAuliffe personally signed off on the voting rights of 173,000 felons during his tenure. His successor, Governor Ralph Northam has signed off on more than 22,000 more since taking office.


According to the Wyoming Department of Corrections, anyone who is a first-time, nonviolent felon can automatically have their voting rights restored if they completed their supervision or they were discharged after January 1, 2010. Anyone who completed their sentence before January 1, 2010, must apply for the restoration of the right to vote.

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