The Returning Citizens Stimulus (RCS), a new program through the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), supports 32 Tulsans who have been released from incarceration in the past 12 months and are unemployed or underemployed. The program started in April as a result of COVID-19.
The Family & Children’s Services Women’s Justice Team (housed within the Women in Recovery – WIR – program) works mostly with female clients released from the Tulsa County – David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center. WJT has a reentry program and the Parenting in Jail program at the jail. The George Kaiser Family Foundation supports programs like WIR, WJT and CEO to assist in breaking the negative impact incarceration has on families and communities. CEO provides employment services to people with recent criminal convictions. The WJT collaborates with CEO to assist justice-involved women with training and employment.
RCS is designed to address the overwhelming racial disparities impacting the health and economic mobility of people coming home from prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. RCS provides essential resources to individuals that need unprecedented support returning home from incarceration during a contracting job market. In just over three months, CEO has transferred payments to more than 5,300 people across 28 cities, while focusing on New York City, Los Angeles, Oakland, Detroit, New Orleans and Tulsa.
“This program is to help stabilize our clients in the midst of COVID-19,” said WJT Director Jena Moore. “Getting out of jail when jobs are harder to find and housing is harder to find … as difficult as it is … to return from jail into the community is even harder now. But with the Tulsa area, it’s based on issuing three monetary rewards based on milestone and achievement.”
Moore said in Tulsa, the criteria clients must meet include: 1.) Jail incarceration from January 2020 until July 2020, 2.) Be at least 18 years of age, 3.) Currently unemployed or underemployed (working less than 20 hours a week) and 4.) Must have a Social Security number. All information is verified before the client enters the program.
“Upon intake, within a matter of days, they receive $900 on a debit card,” Moore said. “The clients are established with the Women’s Justice Team program to get them set up with services, so they aren’t just taking the $900 and running off. Once they are in intake, they have 30-day milestones they must reach which includes establishing short-term housing, getting a phone, getting an ID, getting an intake with a program (inpatient treatment – substance abuse or mental health) with the Women’s Justice Team.”
Clients must also enroll in a remote training program with Workforce Tulsa. Whether it’s driving a forklift or working in hospitality, Moore said it is imperative that clients receive the essential training they need. Once the clients complete those milestones in 30 days, they will receive another $900 which is added to a debit card. Next, the client will start on their 60–day goals which include long-term housing establishment, obtaining a job with the help of an employment specialist, learning to set up budget and other goals. Once they complete the 60-day milestone, the clients receive a final $450 at the end of the program term.
“Tulsa was allotted $2,250 for each person, which is what they can potentially make,” Moore said. “If they don’t reach their milestones, they do not receive a stipend. It’s a great program. It’s more than just giving people money. We are truly working to help the incarcerated make a smooth transition back into the community.”
The program has been so successful that it has been extended to August 14, which gives clients time to complete their milestones. To date, the RCS is disbursing up to $2,750 in cash assistance to more than 7,000 individuals nationwide who were recently released from incarceration due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program leverages CEO’s pay card system, a robust network of local reentry service providers, and a $23+ million investment from the Justice and Mobility Fund, a collaboration launched by The Ford Foundation and Blue Meridian Partners with support from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. RCS transfers three contactless delivery “stimulus” payments to individuals while also connecting them to essential reentry supports.