November 09, 2011

Wyden, Carper and Casey Bill Gives Entrepreneurs Breathing Room to Start Businesses

Self-Employment Assistance Allows Entrepreneurs to Receive Unemployment Insurance While They Start their Own Small Businesses

Washington, D.C. – As the nation’s unemployment rate continues to hover around 9 percent many unemployed Americans could be taking advantage of the opportunity to start their own small businesses if not for rules governing unemployment insurance (UI).  While not every unemployed American is a would-be-entrepreneur, giving unemployed Americans an opportunity to use their skills to build their own small businesses could be an exponential job creator, finding work not just for one unemployed American but creating jobs for others.

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tom Carper (D- Del.) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.) have introduced the Startup Technical Assistance for Reemployment Training and Unemployment Prevention (STARTUP) Act today to promote self-employment assistance as an alternative approach.

“Being unemployed isn’t always a bad thing.  For some of the nation’s most successful entrepreneurs, losing a job was an opportunity to start something new. But starting a new business takes time and focus which the current unemployment rules don’t provide.”  Wyden said. “Oregon’s successful self-employment assistance program has shown that freeing a few promising entrepreneurs to focus on starting a new business versus finding a new job can yield dramatic results.  Promising entrepreneurs in other states deserve the same opportunity.”  

“We know that small businesses are a powerful part of fostering economic growth in America” Carper said. “Self-Employment Assistance helps our economy by providing unemployed workers with the resources they need to launch their own startups and small businesses.  As Governor, I signed legislation authorizing Delaware’s participation in the Self-Employment Assistance program into law—making the First State one of just eight states to offer a this groundbreaking program to unemployed workers. Today, I’m honored to join Senators Wyden and Casey in introducing similar legislation that will encourage even more states to participate in this critically important re-employment program.  By offering more workers access to this underutilized program, this bill will not only ensure that more Americans will find jobs but it will also help generate growth by fostering the next generation of startups that make our communities and economy stronger.”

“Making sure the job creators of tomorrow have the ability to get on their feet today will create jobs and speed up the economic recovery,” said Senator Casey. “This bill makes the path to self-reliance and prosperity easier for prospective entrepreneurs and will create jobs for Pennsylvanians.”

Under current rules, in order to maintain unemployment benefits, the unemployed must be actively searching for and willing to accept suitable work.  Anyone who has started a new business knows that getting it off the ground is a full time job in and of itself and allowing would-be UI recipients to focus full-time on their new business vastly increases their likelihood of success.  

Currently a handful of states allow a small percentage of their states unemployed to focus full time on starting their own business while drawing down their unemployment benefits in the form of self-employment assistance.  

The STARTUP Act would expand eligibility for self-employment assistance to the long-term unemployed and incentivize every state to offer the program, dramatically increasing the number of potential new small businesses.

The START UP Act encourages states to utilize self-employment assistance by:

1)        Allowing the long-term unemployed who remain eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits to draw down those benefits in the form of self-employment assistance;
2)        Providing technical assistance and model language from the Department of Labor for states that create new self-employment programs; and
3)        Providing financial assistance to aid states in establishing, implementing, improving and/or administering self-employment programs.

Representatives Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and Gary Peters (D-Minn.) are expected to introduce a House companion next week.