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February 5, 2024

New Legislation Introduced to Increase Access to Critical Jobs, Provide Career Path for Past Offenders

Today, Congressman Troy A. Carter, Sr. (D-L.A.) and Congressman Clay Higgins (R-L.A.) introduced the bipartisan TWIC Efficiency (TWICE) Act. This legislation, which was drafted with support from Greater New Orleans, Inc., will improve access to the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program for returning citizens by clarifying and improving the application process, while maintaining security of our nation’s most critical infrastructure assets.

TWIC cards are often required for employment at major maritime-related transportation and infrastructure hubs – ports, terminals, factories, refineries, power plants, and more. Across the country, there are over 13,000 vessels and 3,200 facilities under TWIC’s jurisdiction, including key economic engines in Greater New Orleans.  These professions are in high demand and critical to the supply chain, yet are egregiously affected by labor shortages. As of October 2023, nationally, there is a 2-million-person gap between job openings and unemployed workers, and the labor participation rate has fallen from 67 percent in 2000 to 62 percent today.

“The TWICE Act not only increases economic mobility for citizens, it also improves the movement of goods across the country,” said Michael Hecht, President and CEO of Greater New Orleans Inc. “More Louisianians will now be able to play meaningful roles in fueling and feeding the world due to the state’s established leadership in energy, advanced manufacturing, trade, and logistics.  These efficiencies equally benefit American workers and employers by increasing access for a qualified, yet underutilized talent pool to good jobs within Greater New Orleans, and at over 3,000 facilities across the nation. We thank Congressmen Carter and Higgins, as well as the TSA for their collaborative work to improve administration of this critical credential.”

Currently, between 70 and 100 million U.S. residents, or approximately 27 percent, have criminal records.  Currently, if TSA’s background check identifies a TWIC applicant’s disqualifying criminal offenses or another concern, a “Preliminary Determination of Ineligibility” is issued.   This can be appealed or waived, which currently may take 90 days or longer.  Only 38 percent of disqualified applicants complete the appeal process, despite only 0.1 percent receiving rejections based on merit.  This new legislation – which allows more applicants to access employment without TWIC eligibility – creates efficiencies in by assisting individuals who are appealing or requesting exceptions to TSA’s preliminary determination.  The legislation will also support individuals currently in Federal, State, or local prisons by helping them apply in advance or get ready to apply for TWIC cards.

“I am passionate about making sure our criminal justice system is fair and that returning citizens have every possible opportunity for success when they come home,” said Rep. Carter. “So many jobs in the United States require a TWIC card just to work behind a secure facility’s gate. Louisiana’s industry is begging for this workforce. This bill will help make reentry more successful and ensure that workforce training can improve people’s lives.”

Active employment is associated with reduced recidivism, as individuals are less likely to commit crimes when they have stable, full-time employment. One in five jobs in Louisiana is supported by ports activities, including 50,000 oilfield jobs. These reforms will allow additional jobseekers to enter the workforce and expand the candidate pool for employers to vet in accordance with their needs, while applying existing internal practices in reviewing a candidate’s history and reaching hiring decisions.

“I’ve often observed, in the course of my life, that a man’s character shouldn’t be measured by how he falls, it should be measured by how he stands back up. Americans are loving and compassionate, we believe in second chances, and this bill will help men that want to help themselves,” said Rep. Higgins. “I’m thankful to my Louisiana Brother Congressman Troy Carter for his leadership on TWICE, and I’m prayerful that my colleagues in the House and Senate will agree that every child of God deserves a chance to work, to earn an honest living.”

The TWIC program was created in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2011, to help screen workers who require access to secure areas of the Nation’s maritime facilities and vessels. However, a 2019 Comprehensive Security Assessment estimates that between 99.99997 percent and 99.997 percent of the United States population are not terrorists and asserts that ‘‘Few people with risk factors engage in terrorism, meaning that the great majority of people with disqualifying criminal histories present no terrorism risk.’’

“The TWICE Act is a commitment to fostering equitable economic growth through expanded job opportunities while ensuring national security,” said Harrison Crabtree, Director of the World Trade Center New Orleans. “In empowering individuals with expanded access, the TWICE Act address pressing workforce shortages within one of our state’s most important sectors.  I am appreciative of Congressman Higgins’ and Congressman Carter’s efforts to improve access to TWIC program and ensure that our nation’s transportation sector remains at the forefront of our economy.”

The TWICE Act would require the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to:

  • Develop guidelines to improve returning citizens access to the TWIC program.
  • Develop guidelines to assist individuals in custody to pre-apply for TWIC cards and to assist those requesting an appeal or waiver after issuance of a “Preliminary Determination of Ineligibility.”
  • Provide a briefing to Congress within a year on improvements to access to the TWIC program.

“A tremendous amount of thanks to Congressman Carter and Congressman Higgins for submitting the TWICE Act,” said Kristi App, Board Chair of World Trade Center New Orleans.  “Louisiana  feeds, fuels, and powers the world yet we have issues meeting the workforce demands of our employers.  The net benefit of removing obstacles for gainful employment and creating a pathway for returning citizens to not only enter the workforce but build a career in Maritime, Trade and Transportation can not be understated.  Jobs which require TWIC access support every business sector in this state from oil & gas to petrochemical to seafood and agriculture to ports and stevedores. The TWICE Act will provide greater access to well paying, stable jobs that anchor Louisiana’s economy.”