March 2, 2021

Bill Summary: HB 953

This post was last updated on December 8, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

The problem:

One of the strongest deterrents of re-offense is the opportunity for gainful work after incarceration. However, Floridians with past criminal convictions face several roadblocks when pursuing occupational licenses, such as required training hours and associated costs, disqualifying periods, and “good moral character” criteria used by licensing boards as basis for denying applications. These policies have hindered returning citizens from gaining access to dozens of occupations — threatening their ability to successfully integrate in their communities and increasing their likelihood to reoffend.

How HB 953, “Criminal History in Professional Licensing Applications,” addresses the problem:

  • Shortens the period of time from five to two years in which licenses can be denied, for certain occupations, solely on the basis of a past criminal conviction.  
  • Removes “good moral character” as a disqualifying criterion for certain types of occupational licenses.
  • Creates a pipeline program that allows applicable licensing boards to approve the credits applicants received from the Department of Corrections’ educational programs to be counted towards licensing training requirements.

Why now is the time to pass HB 953:

  • It would be fiscally beneficial for the state. Five in 10 people who were released in 2016 ended up getting re-arrested within two years of release. Gainful employment would reduce that number and help save taxpayer dollars.
  • It would help spur economic growth. Boosting workforce opportunities for returning citizens as Florida recovers from the COVID-19 crisis would reduce unemployment rate and generate more revenue from sales tax dollars.
  • There is national consensus that reform is imperative. Several other states have already taken action. Fifteen states (including Mississippi and West Virginia) generally prevent licensing boards from using “good moral character” or other vague standards to deny licenses to returning citizens. ​

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