Self-Employment Assistance Center to Help States Help Startups

    By Adrienne Burke | Small Business

    Small Business Administrator Karen Mills and Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced today that their agencies have partnered on a new program designed to help citizens who are receiving unemployment insurance to start their own businesses.

    The program, targeted at state agencies and state legislators, will deliver resources at the state level so that all 50 states can provide self-employment assistance in the form of financial assistance, entrepreneurial training, and other resources to unemployed residents interested in launching businesses and creating new jobs.

    The launch of the SBA/DOL Self-Employment Assistance Center website follows the release of a DOL guidance earlier this year governing state Self-Employment Assistance, or SEA, programs. The guidance—contained in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, which provided $35 million for states to create SEA programs and expand entrepreneurship opportunities—offers assistance and model legislation for states that wish to draft or revise SEA-authorizing legislation.

    States currently administering such programs include Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Oregon. Reference materials from those states' programs are available on the SEA Center website.

    SEA programs enable states to pay a self-employed benefit, instead of regular unemployment insurance benefits, to help unemployed entrepreneurs while they are establishing businesses. It offers unemployment insurance claimants the opportunity to try out commercial ideas with the support of experienced mentors and training providers and the income security of unemployment insurance. SEA claimants receive weekly checks equal to what their UI claims would be, but are not bound by typical requirements to document a weekly search for work. Instead, they participate in entrepreneurial training and devote themselves to establishing a new business that might create additional jobs.

    The agencies' new Self-Employment Assistance Center website also offers a toolkit that includes courses and training in business plan development, franchise opportunities, raising funding, marketing, accounting, sales, taxes, and other legal issues.

    In a joint statement, Mills and Solis said, "We're excited about the ingenuity that will result from the Self-Employment Assistance program. This new site and the resources it provides will help expand access to the program, helping promising business owners create opportunities for themselves as well as new jobs for others."

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