Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the expansion of a state program that helps unemployment insurance recipients start their own businesses.
Recipients of unemployment insurance benefits generally must demonstrate that they are actively seeking work to be eligible for assistance. Under New York's Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP), unemployed New Yorkers interested in launching their own businesses, rather than seeking other employment opportunities, are eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits and entrepreneurial training while they work full-time to start their own businesses. The Governor today announced the expansion of the program to benefit long-term unemployed New Yorkers.
"Small businesses are the fuel that makes New York's economic engine run," Governor Cuomo said. "Under the Self-Employment Assistance Program, the state has worked successfully with unemployed New Yorkers with an entrepreneurial spirit to give them the resources they need to launch their own businesses. The program is a win-win, giving the unemployed a better shot at reaching for the American Dream, while spurring the start of new small businesses in communities across the state."
Previously, an unemployment insurance beneficiary was only eligible to participate in SEAP during the first 26 weeks of receiving unemployment benefits. The Governor's action extends eligibility for the program to those that have passed the 26 week mark, and are receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC).
To enroll in the program, participants must have received at least 13 weeks of regular unemployment benefits or have 13 weeks of EUC remaining. Participants also must develop a business strategy, attend 20 hours of entrepreneurial training, meet with a business counselor at least twice and work full-time on starting their businesses.
"SEAP graduates are leading the way as New York expands and creates new businesses across the State," said State Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera. "I'm very pleased that the Labor Department is able to make this program available to more unemployed, ambitious New Yorkers."
In 2012, 586 unemployment insurance claimants participated in the SEAP, of which an estimated 363 started their own businesses.
SEAP graduates from across the state have benefitted from the program.
In Queens County, New York City:
Rhonda Feinman owns and operates Rhonda Feinman Custom Frames Inc. in Woodside, New York. She started her business through the SEAP in 2001 and now employs 17 people. She just purchased a building to accommodate her growing business. "Everyone involved was really helpful," she said. "It made navigating the business start-up process easier, rather than just floundering through it. The process laid out by the SEAP forces you to find things out in the right order, and points you in the right direction. The best part was the educational requirements, classes and seminars."
In Freeport in Nassau County, Long Island:
Bill Levine began WL Concepts and Productions Inc. from a bedroom in his home. His business does high-end displays, graphics and signage for clients including Tommy Hilfiger and Macy's. "When I originally went into SEAP, I thought I had what it takes. SEAP gave me the opportunity to create my own job," he said. Today, Bill employs 20 to 25 people in and from his 16,000-square-foot facility.
In Esopus in Ulster County, Mid-Hudson:
Danielle Bliss owns and operates Wishbone Letterpress in Esopus, New York. She does antique letterpress printing on cotton paper and graphic design for wedding invitations, business cards and greeting cards. She got her start through the SEAP in 2011 and said, "I wouldn't have been able to start my business without the support of SEAP." Danielle also found the structure and educational resources extremely helpful. She said "The outline and the deadlines helped me get things done in a timely fashion. It was nice to know that I was getting everything done right -- my DBA, EIN, hiring a lawyer, insurance, etc."
In Wyandanch in Suffolk County, Long Island:
Shurie Green has owned and operated International Tees and More, a promotional products company, in Wyandanch, New York since 2000. She got her start in the SEAP, and found the "program made me stay focused on what I needed to do." She found "having the support of a mentor I could go to if I had a question" and the resources offered the biggest benefits of the program. "Don't let your fear paralyze your dream. I was determined; I didn't let the fear discourage me," she said.
Entrepreneurs can learn more about the SEAP by calling the State Labor Department at (888) 4-NYSDOL (888-469-7365).