State Policies

Colorado State Policies & Resources


Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation  

Policy Summary on Self-Employment:  

Colorado DVR defines self-employment as all employment in which the individual or the entity owned by the individual is responsible for paying for the employer and employee portion of his or her own social security taxes, insurance, licenses, and other employee benefits and may be a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation. The DVR client must maintain majority ownership, substantially participate in core business functions, and, if the business is a partnership or corporation, be the controlling partner or shareholder at 51% or better. DVR will not support businesses that are: non-profits or hobbies; speculative, illicit, sexually explicit, or are engaged in any aspect of the marijuana industry; or multi-level marketing or pyramid designs. 

The policy details two self-employment tracks:  

1. Self-Employment 

Self-employment may be considered viable when the individual possesses the skills and experience pertinent to the business concept.  DVR may support necessary training within a self-employment plan based on industry standards within the chosen field, including training to develop skills specific to business operations, obtain necessary certifications or licensures, or to obtain a necessary academic degree or vocational credential when the industry standard is self-employment (e.g., cosmetology, real estate agent, etc.). Self-employment is typically not considered when the individual is entering a field in which he or she does not have previous experience and wage employment is a feasible option to gain experience and build expertise in the field. Exceptions may be considered when self-employment is the most appropriate option to accommodate disability related concerns. 

2. Supported Self-Employment 

Supported self-employment provides the opportunity for individuals with most significant disabilities to own a business with appropriate resources and supports. An individual may be considered for supported self-employment services when the VR counselor and the individual have identified supported self-employment as the appropriate employment outcome; considerable assistance is needed to develop an individualized, profitable, and sustainable microenterprise; and the individual will perform the essential tasks of the business concept, with or without accommodations. Supported self-employment approval requires funding commitment from an extended service provider prior to the completion of the IPE for self-employment.  

Supported self-employment requires a team approach for planning and ongoing support, including support to explore and determine the feasibility of the proposed business and assist the individual to develop his or her business plan, launch the business, and address the individual’s extended support needs. Team members may include informal supports, formal supports, and community business experts or mentors.  

DVR services and goods for the achievement of self-employment focus on helping individuals to assess the demands and feasibility of self-employment; identify the appropriate tier of funding; develop and implement sound, viable business plans; assess necessary business management and technical skills; and accommodate disability-related limitations. Rehabilitation Counselors for Entrepreneurship (RCE) have specialized self-employment skills and knowledge and assist DVR Counselors through the self-employment process and provide consultation to individuals considering self-employment.  

Colorado DVR policy delineates three tiers of self-employment based on the total amount of business start-up costs. The maximum DVR contribution, client contribution, and business plan requirements vary according to the business Tier. 

·         Tier 1: Start-up funds of $3,000; maximum DVR contribution of 85% (up to $2,550); required client contribution of 15% (up to $450). A one-page business plan including a brief business description; the estimated startup costs; known competitors and anticipated customers; a marketing plan; a brief financial/revenue forecast is sufficient for Tier 1 businesses. 

·         Tier 2: Start-up funds of $3,000.01-$6,500; maximum DVR contribution of $5,000; maximum client contribution of $1,500. A reduced scope business plan, considered for businesses with a parent company that reduces start-up costs and complexity (such as a real estate agent), is sufficient for Tier 2 businesses.  Reduced scope business plans must include: completion of the Self-Employment Questionnaire and Business Feasibility Worksheet; business operation startup; financial projections (3 years); and estimated startup costs. 

·         Tier 3: Start-up funds of > $6,500; maximum DVR contribution of $12,500; maximum client contribution of $9,000. A comprehensive business plan is required for all Tier 3 businesses. 

Tier 2 and Tier 3 business plans must be submitted to the self-employment review team (SERT), consisting of Counselors and other DVR staff who have been trained or have experience in DVR self-employment. The SERT reviews business plans and submits business plan feedback to the referring RCE.  The SERT is available for consultation on business plan review results. 

The Colorado DVR policy includes special provisions to allow for an abbreviated self-employment process for Independent or Subcontractors, including workers in the “gig economy” (e.g., Uber or Lyft), where earnings may be reported through a 1099.  Counselors considering IPE development in these cases consult with an RCE to determine whether the employment outcome is appropriately served through the self-employment program and the documentation required. 

Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) requirements include the completion of outcomes for self-employment, the development of timelines and evaluations to measure business progress, and the identification of providers to address disability challenges.  

Self-employment case closure requirements are met when the business has operated for at least 90 days and generated a net profit during that time. 

Colorado Policy Manual (see Chapter 16: Self-Employment): 

Self-Employment Procedure & Training Manual

Fee Schedule - Self-employment in Chapter 11


Colorado has several microloan resources through city, state, and private sector sources for all entrepreneurs. These resources are designed to benefit all entrepreneurs but can be useful to business owners with disabilities. Colorado appears to be a good environment for entrepreneurs but lacks resources specifically targeted to people with disabilities. 

Colorado Start Up Resources (PDF)

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