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What Is a Self-Employment Assistance Program?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated May 17, 2024
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A self-employment assistance program is one created by an area’s government to help unemployed workers become employed in other ways. Generally, these include starting a business or sole proprietorship. Not all areas have, or are required to have, these kinds of self-employment services. Those areas that do offer these services have varying requirements related to financial and training services, application processes, and eligibility.

The purpose of a self-employment assistance program is to help people who would otherwise be considered unemployed workers under their local laws find employment by becoming self-employed. These programs provide help for self-employed individuals, those starting sole proprietorships, and people who want to start their own small businesses. The basic kinds of self-employment services a SEAP provides varies by location, but can include entrepreneurial-related training programs, counseling, and technical education. Some programs even provide such educational opportunities through local colleges and centers dedicated to providing services for small businesses. Depending on the location, some of these services and benefits also might be requirements.

Perhaps the most immediate benefits of a self-employment assistance program, however, are the financial benefits. Typically, enrollees receive self-employment allowances that are the same monetary amounts as the unemployment benefits they would receive if they were receiving regular unemployment benefits. Being paid a recurring self-employment allowance allows the person starting the business to spend his days working on the business and not looking for other jobs. Depending on the area, tax laws concerning self-employment allowances may or may not resemble unemployment taxes. Generally, enrollees receive information about tax requirements on all government levels, as well as other specific financial requirements, when they begin the program.

Not every unemployed person is eligible for his area’s self-employment assistance program. Exact eligibility requirements vary by location, but generally a person must be eligible for that area’s unemployment benefits program to be eligible for a self-employment assistance program. Other eligibility requirements can include a likelihood of exhausting regular unemployment benefits and the absence of extended unemployment benefits. Some areas might require the applicant to have a feasible business idea, enough financial backing to start the business, and an occupational license if that area requires that particular kind of sole proprietorship to have one. Many areas require the applicant to work full time at the business and to enroll in and regularly attend an approved training program or equivalent.

Not all regions provide a self-employment assistance program. For example, only a few states in America make SEAP available. Where programs are available, the application process typically consists of completing and mailing to the appropriate agency a formal application, in addition to completing any prerequisite training or counseling. Anyone wishing to find out if his area offers a self-employment assistance program and how to apply can contact his area’s government agency that handles labor- or unemployment-related matters. In the United States, for instance, this is the United States Department of Labor and, on a more individual scale, the person’s state unemployment insurance agency.

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