DC Employment Program for Ex-Offenders Helps Budding Entrepreneurs

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Since 2016, the Washington, D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) has made available a program called offered Aspire to help formerly incarcerated city residents, reports The Washington Post. The men and women complete a 12-week course sponsored by the business development office, and everyone who participates receives at least a $2,000 grant to help them launch their business. Nearly three dozen who finished the course this summer also competed in a “Shark Tank”-like pitch contest for a top prize of $10,000 in grant money. But the $250,000-a-year program, which  has educated and provided financial help to more than 100 ex-offenders, is not a good fit for everyone.

While some have put the funds to good use, others have struggled. Natango K. Robinson, who runs an installation service for major appliances, has landed back in jail. Robinson, 35, said his 1½-year-old company provided installation for major appliances such as dishwashers and could earn as much $6,500 a month with an infusion of capital. “The $10,000 will help me capitalize on the opportunity to be an independent service provider,” he said. He was the fourth member of  a recent group of Aspire candidates to suffer from “gun violence” during the four-month program, the contest’s moderator said.

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