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State adds to STEPS program

JACKSON — The Mississippi STEPS program will expand this summer to subsidize youth jobs and aid entrepreneurs opening their own businesses, Governor Haley Barbour announced yesterday.

This summer, two spin-off programs, Summer STEPS and STEPS New Start, will maximize the $43 million the state received for jobs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The original jobs initiative, the Mississippi STEPS: Subsidized Transitional Employment Program and Services, began in Dec. 2009 as a joint venture between the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

“We have seen a huge amount of interest from Mississippi employers who would like to grow their business but are limited during this economic downturn,” Barbour said. “By creating innovative programs like Summer STEPS and STEPS New Start, we can address all types of needs our small businesses have and help keep Mississippians working.”

Summer STEPS begins in June funding jobs for youth ages 18-24. Wages will be 100 percent subsidized for youth working 32 to 40 hours per week and earning $8 an hour. Qualifying participants will be able to transition to the original STEPS program upon completion of Summer STEPS. Young workers must be or have a dependent in families with a household income within 250 percent of the federal poverty line.

STEPS New Start will begin in July to aid entrepreneurs in opening their new companies. Qualified participants will be eligible to receive a grant of up to $5,000 to start a business. Priority consideration will be given to applicants who are prepared to open within 60 days of their application. Eligible entrepreneurs must have at least one child under the age of 18 and earn within 250 percent of the federal poverty line.

More than 1,000 employers have participated in original Mississippi STEPS, which has funded more than 1,200 jobs across the state. Mississippi STEPS subsidizes the wages of a new employee hired by any public hospital, private non-profit or for-profit entity in the state for six months.

The program expires in Sept. 2010.


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