If you have ever been convicted of a felony, you know your penance does not end when you finish your sentence. Your conviction follows you like a shadow and prevents you from living your life to the fullest. Despite your felony conviction, you may still be eligible for many government assistance programs unless your conviction involved use, possession, or distribution of drugs.
Kentucky’s Department of Public Advocacy compiled the collateral consequences convicted felons may encounter in Kentucky. The following information is a condensed version of their material:
If you have been convicted of a felony, you may still be eligible for public housing. However, your local Public Housing Authority (PHA) is required by federal law to prohibit you from getting public housing if anyone in your household has ever been convicted any crime related to manufacturing or producing methamphetamine or if someone in your household currently uses illegal drugs. Furthermore, if anyone in your household is required to register as a sex offender for life, then you are not eligible for public housing. Additionally, federal law permits your local PHA to prohibit you from getting public housing if anyone in your household has ever been involved in drug-related criminal activity, violent criminal activity, or any other criminal activity that might negatively affect your potential neighbors.
If you are a convicted felon, you are eligible for SNAP unless the crime you were convicted of involved distribution, use, or possession of a controlled substance. However, if you have a drug addiction and have completed, or are currently in, a drug treatment program, then you may be eligible for SNAP. Additionally, if you committed a crime involving controlled substance and are pregnant, you are eligible for SNAP.
A felony conviction will not prevent you from from receiving benefits from K-TAP (Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program) unless the offense committed involved selling, using or possessing drugs.
Convicted felons are eligible for Social Security. There are two exceptions. You are ineligible for Social Security if you are currently incarcerated. You are ineligible if you flee to avoid prosecution or custody for a felony offense.
Student Financial Aid
If you have been convicted of any offense (misdemeanor or felony) involving possession or sale of drugs, then you are to receive federal student aid, including grants, loans, or work assistance, for a specified period of time. If your conviction involved possession, you are prohibited from receiving federal student aid for one year after your first offense, two years after your second offense, and an indefinite period of time after your third offense. If your conviction was for distribution, then you are ineligible for two years after your first offense and an indefinite period of time. In order to become eligible for student aid after the specified time period, you must complete a drug rehabilitation program. Persons who are registered sex offenders are not eligible for Pell Grants. In order to receive funding from Kentucky’s Go Higher Grant Program or the Commonwealth Merit Scholarship Program, you cannot be a convicted felon.
Other Government Aid
Similarly, you are ineligible for other forms of federal financial aid, such as loans or grants if you were convicted of distribution or possession of controlled substances. If you were convicted of distribution, you are ineligible to receive government loans or grants for for up to five years after your first conviction, up to ten years after your second conviction, and you are ineligible permanently after your third conviction. If you are convicted of possession, the sentencing court gets to decide if you are not eligible for federal grants and loans for up to one year after your first conviction. For subsequent possession convictions, you the court may decide you are ineligible for up to five years.
However, if you declare yourself as an addict and go to long-term treatment, the period of ineligibility may be waived. Even if you try to go to treatment and it’s inaccessible or unavailable, the judge may still waive ineligibility for government aid.
Collateral Consequences in the News
In response to the harsh consequences that follow convicted felons around long after their sentences have ended, a federal judge in Brooklyn refused to sentence a woman to prison as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The woman was arrested for having 600 grams of cocaine in her luggage at an airport. Instead the judge sentenced the woman “to one year of probation, to include six months of home confinement and 100 hours of community service.” The judge’s goal was to prevent her from facing harsh consequences long after her sentence was over. The judge said that denial of housing, loans, and jobs served “no useful function other than to further punish criminal defendants after they have completed their court-imposed sentences.” There are around 50,000 state and federal statutes and regulations that further punish convicted felons after they finish their sentences. In Kentucky alone, there are 921 statutes and regulations that impose restrictions of felons. This case was but one small ripple in the sea of collateral consequences for convicted felons. It will take federal and state legislative reform to alleviate the burden of being punished long after a sentence is over.
If you have been convicted of a possession misdemeanor and even some low level possession felonies, you may be eligible to expunge your record and become eligible for certain government assistance programs. At this time, only misdemeanors for trafficking of controlled substances are eligible for expungement. For a free evaluation to determine if you are eligible to have your record wiped clean, visit us at Unconvicted for a free evaluation. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.