With so many Michiganders continuing to experience unemployment, now is the perfect time to launch a pilot to allow those who are receiving unemployment insurance benefits and who have the attitude and aptitude to start a business, to become self-employed. Michigan has a strong and diverse entrepreneurial infrastructure – including MNM members providing education, services and resources across the state – to support this type of pilot. But in order to attempt this, we would need to allow people who are currently unemployed and who could show that they could start a business, to be able to use their continuing benefits as equity or while receiving entrepreneurial training and assistance during the start-up phase. Michigan Senate Bill 140 and 141 were introduced in February to allow for such a Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program in the state. There is every reason to believe that this should be a bill of bi-partisan support.

In other states, SEA has successfully helped entrepreneurs to launch their business, achieve self-sufficiency and diminish or eliminate their reliance on unemployment insurance. In Oregon, for example, SEA has been in place since 1995, available to those eligible for unemployment, profiled as likely to exhaust their benefits and with a feasible business model or plan. In the last four years, the SEA Oregon program has had over 1,700 participants. In a 2011 survey of Oregon SEA participants, roughly 70 had launched a business and roughly 15 percent had at least one full time employee. In fact, 17 of the 373 respondents had annual payrolls above $100,000!

The MNM supports legislation to create an SEA program in Michigan, to provide an avenue for self-employment, self-reliance and business creation. To learn more about SEA programs, or to support the legislation, contact Claire Glenn at glenn@cedamichigan.org.

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