Scott's Story: How Cash Assistance During the Pandemic Led to a Full-Time Salaried Job With Benefits

Oct 14, 2021   |  By Eric Borsuk

Scott first heard about the Returning Citizen Stimulus (RCS) program while staying at a transition house near the San Bernardino Mountains in California. Since all of his family lived across the country, he didn’t have much support when returning from incarceration. A mortgage underwriter originally from Florida, Scott had been prepared for difficulties upon reentry, but the COVID-19 pandemic had made the adjustment considerably more challenging.

At the time, Scott was residing in a remote desert area which required him to travel through hazardous winter conditions. Through the RCS program, he utilized the cash assistance payment to acquire a vehicle and auto insurance, which ultimately led to an employment opportunity.

“I was able to work because of the RCS money provided to me,” Scott says. “Without it, I would not have been able to maintain steady employment at such a crucial time. It gave me confidence in knowing that I had money available for those emergencies that nobody can plan for.”

For example, Scott recalls the day he was stranded in his car by the side of the road for 11 hours during a snowstorm. Eventually a tow-truck driver offered to pull him out of the snow for the hefty price of three hundred dollars.

“Thankfully I had the RCS money to pay the tow-truck driver. Otherwise I would have had to just leave my car there, and I wouldn’t have been able to work.”

Scott notes that his strong work ethic and reliability were deciding factors that allowed his temporary employer to hire him as full-time staff. For returning citizens, Scott stresses the need for stability to maintain employment, as reentry can be an incredibly discouraging time, especially during a pandemic. He recalls his time incarcerated and witnessing the recidivism first-hand while seeing many people return to crime because they lacked support systems, as well as money and employment.

“A lot of guys leaving prison don’t have any money or support,” Scott says. “For someone to start working and become a contributing member of society, they have to have stability—money, housing, and in many cases transportation. You can’t be worrying about these things while pursuing a job. If someone doesn’t have clothes or transportation for an interview, then that is just setting them up for failure to go right back to prison.”

Today, Scott is a full-time, salaried employee with benefits. From his home in California, he works remotely as a mortgage underwriter for a Wall Street firm. Recently, he was awarded a promotion, which he used to purchase his own vehicle. However, Scott wants people to know that none of this would have been possible without having the appropriate support and assistance upon his release from incarceration.

“I think it’s an important message for the general public to understand that when someone is released from prison, a huge part of whether or not they succeed, or go back to prison, relies and hinges upon how much support they receive when they get out.”