I know, crazy, right?
Up until last week, I thought so too. But as of last Tuesday, (as I mentioned in my last post) I am officially enrolled in the CLIMB program here in Minnesota. CLIMB stands for “Converting Layoffs Into Minnesota Businesses.” The program pays enrollees to work on their own businesses for at least 32 hours a week.
“Working on your business” can include product development, making sales, working on client projects, your own marketing, (so I’m getting part of my 32 hours in by writing this blog post) training, bookkeeping or anything else that is part of running your business.
And the best part is, none of this work counts against receiving your unemployment benefits.
Up until now, I’ve received about $300 in unemployment on one particularly slow week. That’s it. Because normally, if I work for myself while receiving unemployment, any money I make gets deducted from my benefits.
The unemployment system here in Minnesota requires you to report your earnings when you do the work, not when you’re paid for the work. They deduct the amount you’ve “earned” from your eligible benefits, whether you have money coming in or not. This means my finances have been pretty tight for the last couple of months.
But now, all of that has changed for the better.
I found out about the CLIMB program through a friend who was dealing with the unemployment system here in Minnesota about the same time I was. She mentioned it when we got together one morning for breakfast to commiserate and share resources.
I applied for unemployment benefits as soon as I was laid off (as one does). So I was well into the “must spend 30 hours a week looking for work” situation. But the more I looked, the more I realized I wanted to work for myself again. Once I found out about the CLIMB program, I jumped at the opportunity.
To get these benefits, I had to qualify for the Dislocated Workers program. I attended a session where about 30 laid-off workers were walked through filling out and submitting an application to the program. (It was a bit weird, honestly.)
The Dislocated Workers program helps people who have been laid off from highly qualified jobs get the extra training they need get their next job. The program connects them with educational opportunities and (in some cases) pays for the training.
Once I was accepted into this program, I was assigned a Dislocated Worker counselor, who enrolled me in the CLIMB program. I presented him with my progress up to that point. I had already formed an LLC and I gave him the accompanying documentation. I also reported on my current clients.
He explained the entire program to me, then put me in contact with the CLIMB program representative. It took a couple of months, but eventually everything went through.
Last Tuesday, the CLIMB representative called to tell me I am officially enrolled and will receive my current unemployment benefits every week until they run out (sometime in October).
The great thing is, making money doesn’t affect my benefits. It’s encouraged. The CLIMB representative even gave me some “motherly advice.” She said to use my benefits to pay bills and invest everything I could back into my business.
Now, I know I can pay my bills, regardless of when my clients pay me. This is a huge weight off of my shoulders. I’ve lived on credit cards before. It’s not a fun game.
If you’ve been laid off recently and are thinking of starting your own business, find out whether your state has a Self-Employment Assistance program, or something similar to Minnesota’s CLIMB program.
According to a couple of people inside the MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) program, Minnesota is a leader in innovation when it comes to unemployment benefits. Many states are following our lead.
According to the U.S Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency website, the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor have launched a new website to support state workforce and unemployment agencies who offer Self-Employment Assistance programs. https://sea.workforcegps.org/
Several states, including Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Oregon already have Self-Employment Assistance programs. Check with your state unemployment agency to see if they have this program and whether you qualify.
According to the Small Business Association website, you must:
- Be eligible for and be receiving unemployment benefits
- Be unlikely to return to your previous employment
- Have a viable business idea, be willing to work full time on developing your business and be able to start and sustain your business until it becomes self-supporting.
I expect qualifications will vary from state to state.
Are you starting your own business after being laid off? Tell me about the resources your state is offering in the comments below.