Excerpted from Inside Sources by Rebecca Vallas and Sharon Dietrich

With jobless claims topping an unprecedented 30 million and counting, nearly half of American workers may be unemployed by mid-May.

We are already in a recession; the only uncertainty is how bad it will get — and how long it will last.

Meanwhile, one group of workers who were facing a permanent recession long before COVID-19 is those facing the Scarlet Letter of a criminal record. Indeed, heading into the pandemic, formerly incarcerated people were already facing a 27 percent unemployment rate, higher than any U.S. unemployment rate including during the Great Depression.

While felony records carry perhaps the greatest stigma, any record — including misdemeanors and even charges that were dropped — can be a long-term roadblock to employment, since nearly nine in 10 U.S. employers now use background checks. People with records are half as likely to get a callback or job offer as a result.

Those who do find work face an average earnings reduction of 40 percent annually.

Now, people facing the stigma of a criminal record are poised to see their permanent recession multiplied many times over.

They’re especially vulnerable to job loss amid COVID-19, as many had turned to gig work or odd jobs, out of luck in the traditional labor market. They’re less likely to have access to unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and health insurance to weather the crisis — or to have savings to fall back on, due in large part to crushing fines and fees.

Many who had turned their lives around and found decent-paying jobs pre-COVID will be right back where they started, having their resumes thrown in the trash all over again as they begin looking for work on the other side of the pandemic.
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