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Tampa is moving to get businesses to 'ban the box' for job applicants with criminal records

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Many of those people can't find jobs and become repeat offenders.

The city of Tampa is developing a plan to get businesses to stop asking job applicants whether they have ever been arrested. The city is also looking to promote businesses that hire people with criminal records.

The city is moving to ask businesses to "ban the box" — part of that checklist that often serves as a deterrent to hiring people who have faced trouble with the law. Many of those people can't find jobs and become repeat offenders.

City Councilman Luis Viera proposed the ordinance at a recent meeting, saying the city does not ask new hires to check a box if they've been arrested.

"So we want to make sure that contractors who ban the box and hire returning citizens proven at the end are given incentives and rewarded," he said. "That's our starting base with this."

If approved at a later meeting, the city would evaluate contractors based on a points system, offering more points to those who hire people who have already served their sentences and don't ask new hires if they have been arrested. Viera also got the city to commit $150,000 to match county funds in establishing a training program for people with criminal records.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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