JACKSON — Jim Finley, owner of The Growth Coach in Jackson, is pushing for passage of Senate Bill 2770, which he says will be an incentive for aspiring entrepreneurs.
The Self Employment Assistance Program, known as SEAP, allows eligible workers who lose their jobs to receive unemployment benefits while actively working to start a business. It allows those receiving unemployment benefits to become self-employed by creating their own jobs.
Under current state law, if someone receiving unemployment benefits starts a business, his or her unemployment benefits are stopped.
Although states are authorized by the U.S. Department of Labor to establish SEAP, only about eight states have done so. If Mississippi does this, it would be first in the South, according to Finley.
Workers qualifying for SEAP would be first identified through a system that determines if they are having trouble finding other work. A computer program developed under the guidance of the USDOL would help with this. Skills, education and whether those skills and education are in demand in the local labor market are among the factors that will be considered.
Rules regarding how individuals will be selected will be determined by the SEAP steering committee.
The SEAP steering committee will consist of nine voting members, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) executive director or his appointee and eight others — one from each of the following organizations: National Federation of Independent Business; Mississippi Manufacturers Association; Mississippi Economic Council; Mississippi Development Authority; Delta Citizens Alliance; Mississippi Small Business Development Corporation; Mississippi Minority Business Alliance; and, an at-large member appointed by the MDES executive director.
There will be two advisory members — the chair of House of Representatives Labor Committee and the chair of the Senate Labor Committee.
USDOL limits participants in this plan to 5 percent of the unemployed at any given time. Currently that would be around 1,300.
Participants will be required to show evidence that they’re working to start a business by meeting certain goals set by the SEAP steering committee. Among those goals will be developing a business plan and attending training focused on developing a new business. The steering committee may require training be done through SBA-sponsored events, the Mississippi Small Business Development Center or other related organizations.
Participants who decide this program is not for them may withdraw at any time. They would then be subject to unemployment work-search rules outlined in state and federal laws. After exiting the program, former participants would be able to continue collecting their approved unemployment benefits.