LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A bill brought before a house committee Thursday would create a program to give tax incentives to businesses that hire former prisoners.

The bill’s sponsor said it should help address a worker shortage and give people a second chance.

State Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R) is pushing for the Reboot Pilot Program, which would start with 1,000 former prisoners and expand if successful. Businesses that hire people in this group would receive tax credits.

According to the bill, it would be $3,000 the first year, $2,000 the second and $1,000 the third. Some lawmakers said they think that should be reversed, so it could change by the time the bill is officially voted on.

“The business chooses,” Lundstrum said. “This is not demanding on anybody. This is rewarding the business for taking the risk. They can choose who to hire. Nobody’s telling them who to hire.”

The former inmates would add to Arkansas’ workforce, Lundstrum said, and they would give people a second chance at achieving meaningful employment.

“That means they can pay their restitution back to victims,” Lundstrum said. “That means they’re going to be able to pay their rent and put groceries on their head, pay child support, take care of their families. The dignity of work is important.” 

Lawmakers did not vote on this in committee Thursday, as Lundstrum said she would make a few small changes before it goes up for a vote.