Poll: Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania's small business candidate pool

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

In Pennsylvania, 1 in 4 adults has an old criminal record. People with arrest or conviction records face structural barriers that could impede eligibility for employment and entrepreneurship. The poll reveals that Pennsylvania small business owners support (75%) state legislation that would help candidates overcome these barriers by allowing individuals to petition state courts to seal or expunge certain records.

More specifically, 81% 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. And unlike 35 other states, Pennsylvania does not allow for any felony sealing at this time. The current system is limited and creates obstacles for a ready-made workforce of justice-impacted individuals.

Despite ongoing challenges related to the pandemic, 79% of small business owners in Pennsylvania remain optimistic about their business conditions and 84% 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 72% of small businesses feel challenged when seeking quality candidates. Pennsylvania small business owners share support for proposed changes that will help address ongoing workforce issues and expand the candidate pool, such as the following:  

  • 83% support reforms that allow people with old convictions fairer access to occupational licenses.
  • 77% 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. 
  • 62% support federal legislation prohibiting private-sector employers from asking jobseekers about their criminal background

"Our poll reveals that Pennsylvania 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 candidates only makes sense. It’s time for Pennsylvania to modernize and improve its data systems." 

Pennsylvania policymakers can improve hiring chances for justice-impacted individuals in this legislative session 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 Pennsylvania. 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: 39% Democrat, 32% Republican and 25% Independent. The Pennsylvania 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-PA-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 TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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