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Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) Program

For Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (DVOP) specialists and other Jobs for Veterans State Grant (JVSG) staff performing under the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Education and Training Service (DOL VETS) JVSG program, working with justice-involved veterans (JIVs) will typically be a component of your service delivery. Service providers need to be aware of the various resources available to them when working with this special population.

 In the eighth article of the JVSG Companion Program Series, we will examine the DOL Employment and Training Administration’s (ETA) Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) program. The REO program provides funding, authorized under Section 169 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014, for justice-involved youth, young adults, and adults who were formerly incarcerated. These projects build on the successful models and practices found in community- and faith-based organizations and government systems in providing reentry support within our workforce system.

 Leveraging REO Core Services for JIVs

DVOP specialists and JVSG staff should understand the eligibility requirements and core services for adult reentry programs under REO, which focus on support to individuals 18 years old and older who have been convicted and imprisoned as an adult and released from prison or jail within 180 days. The core service projects provided for adults focus on pre- and post-release services, which include:

  • Career exploration through work experience and internships
  • Pre-employment
  • Basic skills training
  • High school diploma equivalency preparation
  • Mentoring
  • Case management

REO projects promote collaboration and coordination between community-based organizations, foundations, state and local justice agencies, and the workforce system for the delivery of these focused services. Local American Job Centers (AJCs) and the JVSG program facilitate the availability of resources for job search assistance, federal bonding, employer tax incentives, education, and training, and should include information about community, state, and private grant-funded programs that assist JIVs. The National Reentry Resource Center has developed a Reentry Services Directory to help identify local service providers who can address different reentry needs.

Pathway Home

In 2020, ETA awarded over $64 million in REO Pathway Home grants to 20 recipients serving 15 states that assist in transitioning justice-involved adults to the workplace. Pathway Home grants support organizations that provide reentry services including education and training, job preparation, case management and needs assessments, career exploration and planning, legal assistance, counseling, and assistance connecting to other key social services. JVSG staff can identify Pathway Home grantees in their service areas by visiting: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20200707.

Linking the Federal Bonding Program (FBP)

When working with JIVs, we intentionally focus on the employee, but the opportunity to leverage the FBP to link potential employees with employers is a proven best practice. Since 1966, the Federal Bonding Program (FBP), a unique hiring incentive tool, targets individuals whose backgrounds can pose significant barriers to securing or retaining employment. JVSG staff can develop strategies to link REO grant-funded projects supporting veterans reentering the workforce with successful employer incentive programs such as the FBP. JVSG staff can identify their State Bonding Coordinators by visiting: https://bonds4jobs.com/our-services/directory.
Research has shown that early and frequent engagement prior to release from incarceration reduces the risk of recidivism. REO grant projects offer a range of services based on current evidence and proven research, as well as promising emerging practices that improve employment outcomes. Currently, ETA is conducting a study among REO grantees to better understand their effectiveness in improving participant outcomes such as employment, earning, and recidivism. This strategy of continuous improvement allows service providers access to cutting edge programs that can be highly effective in providing sustainable solutions for our justice-involved veterans.
For more information about REO and the National Reentry Resource Center map from the DOL ETA, visit: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/reentry.

If you have any questions on this article or wish to include any additional information, please share your valuable experiences with others at the Making Careers Happen for Veterans: Community of Practice.