A Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program could be coming to Michigan

by Claire Glenn, Coordinator of the Microenterprise Network of Michigan/Coordinator of the Michigan Vacant Property Campaign

This summer, Michigan senators introduced legislation that would allow people eligible for unemployment benefits to receive assistance while they work to launch a microbusinesses. Called Self-Employment Assistance (SEA), this innovative program would allow entrepreneurs with unemployment benefits to access the many microenterprise development resources available throughout the state, including business education, consulting and counseling.

Earlier this year, Congress passed legislation to expand the federal Self-Employment Assistance Program, making SEA available for both regular and long-term unemployed people. In addition, the expansion simplified the implementation process and made $35 million in federal funds available for states to start, improve or expand their own SEA programs. Of this $35 million, Michigan is eligible for $1,178,691.

Currently, people receiving unemployment benefits in Michigan are discouraged from starting their own business. Yet in our state, we have the resources, talent, and potential to foster the success of entrepreneurs. We have a vibrant and established infrastructure of Microenterprise Development Organizations that educate, train, coach and support entrepreneurs throughout our state. We have creative, skilled, motivated people who are unemployed due to job shortages. We have the opportunity to implement an SEA program that would utilize these existing resources and create an avenue for people with the attitude and aptitude to pursue entrepreneurship – instead of telling people to find a job, we could be helping them to create their own job.

The Microenterprise Network of Michigan (MNM), a project of CEDAM, is working to bring service providers, stakeholders and policy makers together in support of establishing an SEA program in Michigan. With over $1 million in federal grants available, we are encouraging the Michigan legislature to pass the introduced bills required to receive funding. We believe that this is a unique opportunity to connect government agencies working with the unemployed to microenterprise development resources, creating new pathways for self-employment and new job creation.

To learn more about Self-Employment Assistance, the Microenterprise Network of Michigan, or how you can stay informed and get involved with policy advocacy, email Claire Glenn, MNM Coordinator, at claire@cedamichigan.org. The CFED Self-Employment Assistance Policy Guide can be found here. The legislation can be tracked here.