CHICAGO—(ENEWSPF)–November 7, 2017
By: Rosemary Piser
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced a new, innovative program to help formerly incarcerated men and women start their own businesses.
The Pathway to Enterprise for Returning Citizens (PERC) program is the first of its kind in Illinois. In its initial pilot phase, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) will screen candidates and select 125 people who are returning to communities on the south and west sides of Chicago. When the candidates go home, they will receive in-depth training and coaching on how to run a business. The program will give them an opportunity to spur economic development and create jobs in the same communities in which they live.
Governor Rauner said, “One of my most important goals since taking office has been to fix our broken criminal justice system and give people a real chance at success when they are released from prison. This program not only allows us to create jobs in under-served communities, it also drives down the recidivism rate and sets families on the right course.”
IDOC Director John Baldwin said the IDOC’s goal is to improve the outcomes of the men and women who leave prison. “We are laser focused on improving outcomes for the men and women who leave our custody. Many of them have entrepreneurial minds and this program is just what they need to hone their skills and build a better life for themselves.”
Training services for the PERC program will be provided by The Safer Foundation of Illinois, Bethel New Life in the Austin neighborhood, Chatham Business Association, North Lawndale Employment Network, and Sunshine Enterprises, based in Woodlawn. Those who successfully complete the program will be eligible to receive a privately funded loan of up to $50,000 to launch their businesses.
The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) will monitor the program to measure its effectiveness.
PERC has been created through a public-private partnership between the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA), IDOC, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative Micro Finance Group (CNIMFG), which will underwrite loans for the start-up capital.
More than $1 million was raised from private-sector foundations, including Citibank Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, the Perry Family Foundation, US Bank and the Hughes Foundation, to get the program off the ground.