As the pandemic exacerbates Los Angeles’ already dire homelessness crisis, Assemblymember Richard Bloom believes providing businesses with a tax credit for hiring homeless individuals could be a key tool for economic and social recovery.

Bloom, who served 13 years on City Council and is a current State Assemblymember, recently introduced AB 675 to create the ‘California Homeless Hiring Tax Credit’. This legislation would provide businesses with a tax credit between $2,500 and $10,000 for each unhoused individual they hire.

This measure is supported by accompanying bill SB 424, which was co-authored by Bloom and introduced in the state senate by Senator Elena Durazo. If adopted, it has the potential to break down employment barriers to unhoused individuals across California, while providing much needed government support to small businesses.

“We have a large group of individuals in LA County and across the state who are ready to work but unable to find jobs due to the stigma that is too often associated with homelessness,” said Bloom. “AB 675 And SB 424 take an important step forward to getting these Californians back to work.”

The bills would provide tax credits to support up to 3,000 eligible unhoused individuals and apply to jobs that offer job training and career advancement opportunities as well as a ‘family sustaining wage’ at or above the jurisdiction’s prevailing wage.

The program places emphasis on small and medium sized businesses and qualifying companies must employ less than 500 individuals. It strives to provide unhoused individuals with a sustainable income that allows them to permanently transition off the street while also aiding businesses impacted by Covid-19.

“There are many small businesses in LA County that need additional staff right now to assist with reopening, but they’re struggling to afford the costs in it, and a tax credit of up to $10,000 could make all the difference to those businesses,” said Bloom. “Over 93 percent of LA County businesses employ fewer than 20 employees, making small business a key part of our economic recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic.”

Eligible individuals include those experiencing homelessness at or up to 60 days prior to the date of hire or anyone receiving supportive services from a homeless service provider. While the initial program would be for $30 million in credits, Bloom said that if proven successful, the initiative could be vastly scaled up in the future.

“I’ve gone through a bout of homelessness and I know what it’s like to want to get a job and want to better yourself, but there weren’t a lot of resources out there,” said Lavena Lewis. “When you are homeless finding employment is key. “It’s really one of the main factors that will allow you to be housed and to hold on to your housing.”

Lewis was temporarily unhoused and lived in a shelter in Downtown LA where she received assistance from LA Rise and the Downtown Women’s Center, which allowed her to start a business selling handbags. She said that her experiences led her to fully support this program and that she would love to be able to hire a homeless individual in the future.

“It’s important for us as a business community as well as people who are experiencing homelessness to get together and through this bill we can work and help one another,” said Lewis. “The idea of saving money with tax credits as well as helping unhoused Angelenos is really important.”