Governor Lincoln D. Chafee announced today that the federal government has awarded the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training a $159,734 grant to implement a Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program as an alternative path to reemployment for unemployment insurance (UI) claimants. Only a handful of states have active SEA programs; Rhode Island is the first state to be awarded federal SEA funding under this particular grant opportunity. Through Self-Employment Assistance, eligible unemployed Rhode Islanders with an interest in starting their own business may receive free entrepreneurial training and guidance.
Governor Chafee stated, "Rhode Island is proud to be the first state to have been awarded these funds for Self-Employment Assistance. We applied for this grant because we believe an active Self-Employment Assistance program can increase the potential for the development of new businesses and new jobs in Rhode Island."
The program is scheduled to launch some time in mid-March.
Department of Labor and Training Director Charles J. Fogarty explained, "While SEA had been allowed for regular unemployment insurance claimants since the mid-1990s under Rhode Island law, funding had not been available to prepare claimants to start their own business." Fogarty added that the Chafee administration amended the RI law last year to allow SEA for federal extended UI benefits recipients as well as regular UI recipients. "The department has confidence that the comprehensive curricula and support system provided by the Center for Women & Enterprise and the Social Venture Partners will give new entrepreneurs a solid base from which to launch a viable new career," said Fogarty.
"This federal funding will help hard working and entrepreneurial Rhode Islanders spur business creation and provide them the support to turn their ideas into a successful business," said Senator Jack Reed, who helped secure federal funding for SEA grants in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in February 2012.
"With unemployment still over 10 percent in Rhode Island, we need to take every step possible to improve Rhode Island's economy," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "This grant money will help the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training increase the efficiency of its self-employment assistance program, and I congratulate Governor Chafee and DLT Director Fogarty on a successful grant application."
"This announcement is great news for the state's efforts to help get people back to work, improve our economy, and strengthen small businesses," said Congressman Jim Langevin. "The dream of running one's own business should be accessible to all Rhode Islanders, and the Self-Employment Assistance grant program helps to make that dream a reality. I am pleased that Rhode Island DLT will be able to expand this successful program and encourage more start-ups in our state."
"These critical federal resources will allow the Self-Employment Assistance program to expand its efforts in Rhode Island and give our entrepreneurs the tools they need to start their own business. I am proud that we helped make this funding possible by working to pass the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act just this past year," said Congressman David Cicilline.
Unemployment insurance (UI) claimants determined to benefit the most from this non-traditional approach to reemployment will be invited to SEA introductory counseling. Those who demonstrate a commitment to pursuing an entrepreneurial path are mandated to attend a "reality check workshop" conducted by DLT partner, the Center for Women & Enterprise. Those who then wish to apply for four-week free entrepreneurial training with the Center for Women & Enterprise and Social Venture Partners will have their applications reviewed by committee. This intensive, daily training will take the place of the standard work search that all UI claimants are required to conduct in order to receive weekly benefits. At the end of the four-week program, participants should have completed or be near completing an actual business plan. Social Venture Partners will continue to provide mentoring to the participants after they have completed the four-week training.