Maryland State Policies & Resources
Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services
Policy Summary on Self-Employment:
Maryland DORS offers services to individuals whose vocational goal involves developing and managing their own businesses. All proposed businesses must involve work in an integrated, community setting. DORS does not provide self-employment support for individuals whose goal is to remain in a sheltered setting, nor does it fund “hobby-type” businesses (i.e., businesses that will not generate significant income for the individual).
Self-employment services are administered through Maryland’s RISE Program (Reach Independence through Self-Employment). The RISE Program provides individuals with the support they need to research their business venture and investigate possible external funding sources. Individuals requesting self-employment services without input from the RISE Program must have prior approval from the OFS or OBVS Director.
DORS provides a form of supported self-employment known as Supported Business Enterprise. Supported Business Enterprise is intended for individuals who need supports to manage their businesses. To qualify for Supported Business Enterprise, the consumer must be able to perform a “core function” of their supported business and must be supported by a team consisting of themselves, a DORS counselor, a job coach, and a RISE representative. The plan for a supported business must clearly indicate which business functions the consumer will perform, and which ones will be handled by supports.
Consumers must undergo a preliminary assessment designed to gauge their interest in and their capacity for self-employment. During the assessment, a VR Counselor talks to the consumer about their past business experience and other relevant skills, as well as the qualities needed to successfully operate a business. The Counselor and consumer also discuss the individual’s financial goals and any financial benefits they receive; this information is later used to determine a successful outcome for the consumer. If applicable, the Counselor obtains information from providers (psychologists, physicians, counselors) to better evaluate the individual’s capacity self-employment. Individuals with established businesses do not have to complete this preliminary assessment; instead, their businesses are evaluated by RISE staff.
Consumers pursuing self-employment must develop an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) or IPE amendment that lists self-employment as their vocational goal; the IPE should also list any disability-related services the individual requires. Consumers must also take a one-day training on business planning, titled “Business Plan Development Education,” during which they will learn how to draft a business plan.
Individuals requesting self-employment funding must complete a comprehensive business plan that describes “all relevant aspects of the business.” A business plan is required for proposed and existing businesses. The plan should include a list of the goods and services required to establish the business, as well as a mission statement; management, operational, and financial plans; any licensing or certification requirements needed; market research; community benefits; and an assessment of the risks and potential problems associated with starting the business. Goods and services that the individual requires regardless of whether they are self-employed (e.g., an adapted computer that the individual uses every day) should not be included in the plan. The final business plan is reviewed by RISE and sent to DORS for approval.
DORS cannot be the primary funder of the individual’s business. The majority of business funding must come from other sources, such as family members, bank loans, insurance settlements, and Social Security Work Incentives. DORS financial support is restricted to the purchase of necessary goods and services, as specified in the individual’s business plan and IPE. DORS support is not usually higher than $15,000 and is not provided in cash. Expenses that have not been pre-approved by a DORS official are not covered. DORS does not fund the repayment of existing debt or the purchase of real estate or vehicles that require a license to operate. It will also not reimburse consumers for purchases made without DORS approval.
Case closure is determined on a person-by-person basis, as specified in the individual’s IPE. DORS has two closure categories: competitive rehabilitated and rehabilitated, non-competitive. Competitive rehabilitated closure can occur when the individual’s business revenue is equal to or higher than minimum wage. (For sole proprietors, revenue is defined as “net self-employment income minus one-half of the self-employment tax.”) Individuals who have met their pre-determined closure standards but have not achieved a revenue at or above minimum wage can have their cases closed as rehabilitated, non-competitive.
Maryland Policy Summary (see RSM 2, Section 1400: Self-Employment): https://dors.maryland.gov/resources/Pages/policy.aspx
The following downloadable PDF contains statewide self-employment resources and links for people with disabilities.