Bank of America announces renewed support for Unlocked Futures

As part of our broader commitment to help individuals with barriers to employment rebuild and move forward, we announced support for eight formerly incarcerated entrepreneurs.

In 2017, we began a partnership with singer, songwriter, producer and activist John Legend's organization, FREEAMERICA, and New Profit as a founding partner of Unlocked Futures, an accelerator supporting entrepreneurs impacted by the criminal justice system who are operating mission-driven organizations. The second cohort of eight entrepreneurs was announced at the U.S. 2019 Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s “Talent Forward” conference in Washington, D.C. We announced our support for this group, committing an additional $500,000 to the Unlocked Futures partnership, bringing our total commitment to $1 million since 2017.

Through Unlocked Futures, these entrepreneurs will receive an unrestricted $50,000 grant and one year of expert strategic support to help them increase the impact of their organizations. The strategy support will be provided by New Profit, which has 20 years of experience catalyzing the growth and impact of social entrepreneur-led organizations. They will also receive coaching from Bank of America senior executives, in addition to working with FREEAMERICA to collectively and powerfully tell their stories to shift public mindsets and break the stigma of returning from incarceration.

The importance of addressing barriers and eliminating the stigma

The barriers faced by formerly incarcerated people include lack of access to formal job training, limited housing options, and lack of resources to address substance use disorders or mental health, leaving 60% of these individuals unemployed one year after their release.

This contributes to the recidivism cycle that impacts the economic mobility of individuals and communities. Entrepreneurship is a powerful pathway to escape this cycle, live with dignity, and contribute positively to a community. Building on the momentum created by the first group of Unlocked Futures entrepreneurs, this new set of individuals will work to break barriers to successful reentry into society.

Impacting the cycle of recidivism

Each year in the United States, 630,000 individuals are released from incarceration. Nearly 50% end up back in prison within five years. One of the biggest predictors of successful reintegration is full-time employment, but nearly 60% stay unemployed three years after their release.

An average of 500,000 individuals released each year have little or no access to continuing education, housing, employment, transportation and healthcare, which contributes to high recidivism. Partnering with programs like Unlocked Futures can provide access to resources and programs to break the cycle of recidivism, driving economic mobility in the communities in which we live and work.

Our commitment to ESG

Our company lives its purpose of making financial lives better around the world through the power of every connection. We’re delivering on this through responsible growth with a focus on our environmental, social and governance (ESG) leadership.

ESG is embedded across our eight lines of business and reflects how we help fuel the global economy, build trust and credibility, and represent a company that people want to work for, invest in and do business with. It’s demonstrated in the inclusive and supportive workplace we create for our employees, the responsible products and services we offer our clients, and the impact we make around the world in helping local economies thrive.

An important part of this work is forming strong partnerships with nonprofits and advocacy groups advancing economic mobility ― helping people to achieve a more secure financial life for themselves and their families. Our economic mobility efforts include increasing access and removing barriers to success for vulnerable populations through workforce development, affordable housing, small business lending and neighborhood revitalization and more:

  • Through our signature philanthropic program Neighborhood Builders, we work with many organizations breaking down barriers to employment. For example, in Washington, D.C, we work with D.C. Central Kitchen to support job training to the formerly incarcerated and turn local farm products into healthy meals for schools, shelters and nonprofits. D.C. Central Kitchen has celebrated its 100th Culinary Job Training class and has an 89% job placement rate.
  • In June 2018, we committed to hiring 10,000 individuals from low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in our Consumer and Small Business division, through our Pathways program, over the next five years.
  • Through our direct lending and investment business, we’ve provided more than $1.5 billion in capital to 260 CDFIs in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. In June 2018, we announced a $20 million Veteran Entrepreneur Lending Program to connect veteran business owners with affordable capital through participating CDFIs to help grow their businesses.
  • Since 2012, we’ve invested more than $30 million in nonprofits helping those with barriers to employment secure basic needs, workforce training and entrepreneurship.


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