Rep. Smucker Introduces H.R. 4937 – The Workforce Reentry Act

November 9, 2019
Blog Post

H.R. 4937 – The Workforce Reentry Act

The Workforce Reentry Act reforms the existing Reentry Employment Opportunities (REO) program to prompt innovation and improvement in the reentry of justice-involved individuals into the workforce through competitive start-up grants, rigorous evaluation, and dissemination of best practices.

Develops in-demand skills by prioritizing funding towards entities that provide programs or partnerships to equip justice-involved individuals with industry-recognized credentials in in-demand occupations, such as apprenticeship programs.
Builds long-term success by requiring grant recipients to provide a 25% match of funds and a plan to continue effective programs with non-federal funds after the grand period concludes.
Increases accountability and transparency by holding programs accountable for WIOA performance outcomes on employment, earnings, and credential attainment.
Expands awareness around “what works” by requiring an independent evaluation and the dissemination of best practices, encouraging states, localities, and non-profits to pursue evidence-based approaches to ex-offender reentry into the workforce.


More than 650,000 men and women leave prison each year, returning to communities and neighborhoods across the country. Unfortunately, over 40 percent of individuals released are rearrested within one year and more than three-fourths will be rearrested within five years. This cycle of incarceration weakens our communities, reduces public safety, diminishes our workforce, and drains taxpayer funds on the high cost on incarceration. Rapid reintegration into the workforce and sustained employment are critical to the long-term success of justice-involved individuals.

Since 2005, the Department of Labor has been operating the loosely-structured Reentry Employment Opportunities program (formally known as the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders program) through funding under the “Research and Evaluation” authority of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Over the years, the REO program has awarded funding to numerous organizations providing mentoring, job training, and case management services, however, independent evaluations have found this haphazard approach has produced minimal impacts on labor market outcomes or recidivism. The program’s lack of clear and consistent direction, minimal accountability and oversight, and insufficient public reporting have undermined its effectiveness and limited the much-need progress on the reentry of justice-involved individuals. The Workforce Reentry Act brings necessary reforms to this program, prioritizing proven workforce development strategies and incorporating key insight from previous evaluations of the REO program.