The U.S. Department of Labor issued guidelines today for state workforce agencies to create Self-Employment Assistance Programs (SEA) that would give their state's unemployed an opportunity to not only get back to work but to become job creators themselves. The program connects unemployment insurance (UI) recipients who have proven to be good candidates for self-employment and allows them to collect their unemployment benefits as they work to build credible businesses. In most states, UI recipients are required to search for full-time employment and accept any job offer in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits. This program would waive those requirements for eligible recipients who demonstrate that they are working towards building a sustainable business.
"We already know that unemployment insurance is an economic multiplier, but with self-employment assistance it can be a jobs multiplier too," said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who led the Senate effort to make SEA law. "Today's guidance from the DOL will show states exactly how to give the smart entrepreneurs looking for work in their state the spark they need to become small business job creators. In Oregon, the program has seen success that has far outdistanced the cost to the state and with the federal funding now available to get these programs up and running, there is no reason other states shouldn't do the same. I thank Secretary Solis for moving swiftly to put out this guidance and encourage every governor and state legislature to consider starting a program."
"Self-Employment Assistance has proven to be a valuable tool in helping many unemployed Americans realize the dream of business ownership in Oregon and around the country," said Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis. "These grants will help improve and expand these state programs while strengthening the economy and creating new jobs as more start-ups launch and grow."
Senator Wyden has been a longtime champion of self-employment assistance programs, enacting legislation nearly two decades ago that help spawn successful SEA programs in five states including Oregon. Earlier this year Wyden successfully secured $35 million in funding for the creation or improvement of state SEA programs which passed as part of the payroll tax agreement. This new funding reduces the financial burden on states who wish to create, expand, and promote these innovative programs and today's guidance from DOL gives state workforce agencies a step-by-step plan for implementing successful SEA programs. But, as Wyden says, "the program only works if states take part."
"The states that have successful self-employment programs today are the ones that took advantage of the federal program the last time it was offered," said Wyden. "I hope more states will take a look at the Department's guidelines and start empowering their citizens to turn unemployment into an opportunity."