Poll: Georgia Small Businesses Support Reforms to Expand Access to Licensing for Justice-Impacted Individuals

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, March 7, 2024

New poll finds strong support for licensing reform measures that would help to expand the candidate pool and boost opportunities for entrepreneurship

Atlanta, GA — Today, Small Business Majority released new research that reveals strong support for licensing reform measures that would expand opportunities for justice-impacted individuals in Georgia to start or work for a small business. A majority (86%) of Georgia small business owners support legislative solutions that would remove barriers to occupational and professional licensing for justice-impacted individuals. 

Small businesses are a crucial part of Georgia's economy and support 42% of the state's private sector workforce. However, Small Business Majority research reveals nearly 6 in 10 small business owners say the top challenge they face when hiring is finding quality candidates. This challenge is made worse because one in seven entry-level jobs in Georgia require an occupational license–including 25% of Georgia’s high-demand jobs–and more than 4 million Georgians have a criminal record, which can create barriers to accessing professional licenses. 

Given the tight labor market, it is critical that Georgia utilizes all opportunities to expand and diversify its candidate pool. The state legislature is considering legislation that would address this by creating more opportunities for justice-impacted individuals to pursue occupational licenses. The poll reveals that this type of measure is strongly supported by Georgia small businesses—for example, nearly 9 in 10 small businesses 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.

“Opening access to occupational licensing can address the ongoing labor shortage, grow Georgia’s economy, and reduce recidivism,” said Charlotte Garnes, Founder & Executive Director of ReNforce in Augusta. “As a system-impacted small business owner, I've experienced several barriers to entrepreneurship and career advancement first-hand. Georgia is limiting workforce growth and hindering innovation by continuing to create barriers around access to occupational and professional licenses.”  

The survey also reveals small business owners’ views on reforms to driver’s license fees and ending debt-based driver’s license suspensions (67% support), which can hinder the ability to get to and from the workplace. 

“Georgia small businesses are struggling to recruit and retain qualified employees, while many justice-impacted Georgians are being held back from employment by a previous criminal record,” said Rachel Shanklin, Georgia Director, Small Business Majority. “The research shows that with reforms to occupational licensing and debt-based driver’s license suspensions, Georgia can expand talent recruitment while supporting entrepreneurship bolstered by a ready workforce that includes justice-impacted people. During the remainder of the 2024 legislation session, policymakers have an opportunity to help build a more robust economy by supporting measures that allow employers to tap into an underutilized workforce.” 

This poll reflects a survey of 100 Georgia small business owners and decision-makers. The poll was an online and phone survey conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting on February 5, 2024. The margin of error is +/-10%. Click here to read the full report. 


About Small Business Majority

Small Business Majority is a national small business organization that empowers America's diverse entrepreneurs to build a thriving and equitable economy. We engage our network of more than 85,000 small businesses and 1,500 business and community organizations to advocate for public policy solutions and deliver resources to entrepreneurs that promote equitable small business growth. Our deep connections with the small business community along with our scientific research enable us to educate the public about key issues impacting America’s entrepreneurs, with a special focus on advancing the smallest businesses and those facing systemic inequalities. Learn more about us on our website and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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