Poll: North Carolina Small Businesses Support Criminal Justice Reforms to Address Workforce Challenges

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Latest poll highlights support for Clean Slate policies to expand North Carolina's small business candidate pool

Raleigh, North Carolina — Today, Small Business Majority released state-specific poll data that reveals bipartisan support for criminal justice reforms at the state and federal levels, which includes Clean Slate policies that will address persistent workforce challenges.

More than 1.6 million people in North Carolina have a criminal record and consequently face structural barriers that could impede eligibility for employment and entrepreneurship. The poll reveals the majority of North Carolina small business owners (78%) support state legislation that would help candidates overcome these barriers by allowing individuals to petition state courts to seal or expunge certain records.

More specifically, small business owners support a Clean Slate policy model that automatically seals qualifying criminal records if a person stays crime-free for a set period of time. Eighty-three percent of small business owners in North Carolina say that Clean Slate policies will open a pool of job applicants and increase employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for justice-impacted citizens eligible for record relief.

"People with criminal records face debilitating collateral consequences, which often exclude them from jobs and make it more difficult for them to reach their dreams," said Veronica Pearson, CEO of Dammi LLC and a Google Justice Initiative partner in Charlotte. "The current system is limited and creates obstacles for a ready-made workforce of justice-impacted individuals. I'm happy to support more robust Clean Slate laws in North Carolina that can help to give thousands of people a second chance, allowing them to move on from an old record and positively impacting their well-being, personal finances, and community." 

Despite ongoing challenges related to the pandemic, 85% of small business owners in North Carolina remain optimistic about their business conditions and 72% will likely add employees over the next several months. This climate has opened the doors for more hiring opportunities; however, the poll also revealed that 69% of small businesses feel challenged when seeking quality candidates. North Carolina small business owners share support for proposed changes that will help address ongoing workforce issues and expand the candidate pool, such as the following:  

  • 82% support reforms that allow people with old convictions fairer access to occupational licenses.
  • 82% agree that removing barriers to employment for people with criminal records will save tax dollars by reducing recidivism and the need for long-term government assistance
  • 57% support federal legislation prohibiting private-sector employers from asking jobseekers about their criminal background

"Our poll reveals that North Carolina small business owners want to utilize a ready workforce that includes justice-impacted people, but the current criminal justice system has created obstacles to hiring staff," said Awesta Sarkash, Public Policy Director, Small Business Majority. "Although Clean Slate laws have been recently enacted in North Carolina, a quick and easy expungement process for many potential candidates is inaccessible. The current system should be modernized, allowing small businesses to grow their workforce." 

In this legislative session, North Carolina policymakers can improve hiring chances for justice-impacted individuals by supporting policies allowing employers to tap into an underutilized workforce, give more people a fresh start and boost North Carolina's economy. 

This opinion poll, conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting for Small Business Majority, reflects the opinions of 100 small business owners from North Carolina. The poll, conducted from September 13 through September 20, has a margin of error of +/-10% at a 95% confidence interval. Poll respondents identified with the following political parties: 41% Democrat, 32% Republican, and 24% Independent. The North Carolina sample was part of a six-state poll of 600 small business owners. Read the full report at: https://smallbusinessmajority.org/sites/default/files/research-reports/2023-NC-Criminal-Justice-Poll-Report.pdf 


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 deliver resources to entrepreneurs and advocate for public policy solutions that promote inclusive small business growth. Our work is bolstered by extensive research and deep connections with the small business community that enable us to educate stakeholders about key issues impacting America’s entrepreneurs, with a special focus on the smallest businesses and those facing systemic inequities. Learn more about us on our website and follow us on TwitterFacebookand Instagram.

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