NY expands self-employment assistance program

Bill Levine, of Freeport, said the state program

Bill Levine, of Freeport, said the state program "gave me the opportunity to create my own job." His WL Concepts and Productions Inc. now employs between 20 and 25 people. (Credit: Newsday, 2011/ Audrey C. Tiernan)

New York's long-term unemployed are now eligible for a state initiative that helps the jobless start businesses, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Tuesday.

The Self-Employment Assistance Program has been expanded to include residents who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, as well as those receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation because of superstorm Sandy or other events.

To enroll in the program, a jobless resident must have received at least 13 weeks of unemployment benefits or have 13 weeks left in emergency compensation.


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They are required to develop a business strategy, attend 20 hours of training in starting a company, meet with a business counselor at least twice and work full time on starting the venture.

"The program is a win-win, giving the unemployed a better shot at reaching for the American dream, while spurring the start of new small businesses," Cuomo said.

The state Department of Labor administers the self-employment program, which began in 1995. Last year, 586 people receiving unemployment benefits participated, including about 100 from Nassau and Suffolk counties. More than 360 businesses were launched statewide. All of those participants were within the first 26 weeks of receiving benefits.

On Long Island, the program has spurred development of several businesses.

International Tees and More, a promotional products company, started in 2000 in Wyandanch. Owner Shurie Green said the self-employment program "made me stay focused on what I needed to do," adding that having the support of "a mentor I could go to if I had a question" was helpful.

In Freeport, Bill Levine said the state program "gave me the opportunity to create my own job." His WL Concepts and Productions Inc., which specializes in high-end displays, graphics and signs for retailers such as Macy's department stores and clothier Tommy Hilfiger, now employs between 20 and 25 people.

For more information on the program, call the labor department at 888-469-7365.

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