Poll: Ohio 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 Ohio’s small business candidate pool

Columbus, Ohio — 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.

In Ohio, 1 in 6 people has a felony or misdemeanor conviction, while 1 in 3 has a criminal record of some sort (including non-conviction arrests). African American and Latino people are arrested at rates 2-3 times the general population and are disproportionately likely to be convicted and incarcerated, impeding their eligibility for employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. The poll reveals that Ohio small business owners support (74%) state legislation that would help individuals overcome these barriers by allowing individuals to petition state courts to seal or expunge certain records. 

More specifically, 88% of small business owners agree 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. Although Ohio currently has Clean Slate laws that allow some misdemeanor and felony convictions to be sealed following a waiting period, the current system is limited and creates obstacles for a ready-made workforce of justice-impacted individuals.

Despite ongoing challenges related to the pandemic, 86% of small business owners in Ohio remain optimistic about their business conditions and 77% 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 71% of small businesses feel challenged when seeking quality candidates. Ohio small business owners share support for proposed changes that will help address ongoing workforce issues and expand the candidate pool, such as the following:  

  • 81% 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. 
  • 71% support reforms that allow people with old convictions fairer access to occupational licenses.
  • 63% support federal legislation prohibiting private-sector employers from asking jobseekers about their criminal background

"Our poll reveals that Ohio 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. "Enacting policies that help small businesses reach a larger pool of qualified candidates only makes sense. One way to expand Ohio’s workforce is by making it easier for employers to recruit from underused candidate pools. Ohio must take steps to quickly seal or expunge records, allowing small businesses to diversify their candidate pool. " 

In this legislative session, Ohio policymakers can improve hiring chances for justice-impacted individuals by supporting policies allowing employers to tap into an underutilized workforce. 

This opinion poll, conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting for Small Business Majority, reflects the opinions of 100 small business owners from Ohio. 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: 37% Democrat, 29% Republican and 29% Independent. The Ohio 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-OH-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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