Florida State Policies & Resources
Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Policy Summary on Self-Employment:
Florida VR policy includes both self-employment and supported self-employment. Individuals receiving supported self-employment must receive both the long-term and short-term supports needed to prepare for self-employment. No formal assessments are required, but a referral meeting to assist the customer explore the option of self-employment may be held. A vocational evaluation is not needed to determine the customer’s capacity for self-employment; however, Discovery during the Business Concept Development is a structured and encouraged process with the goal of identifying the individual’s skills, interests, potential contributions, and support needs.
Florida employs Certified Business and Technical Assistance Consultants (CBTACs) to prepare customers for self-employment and to perform the management tasks associated with self-employment. VR customers who do not require additional support are not mandated to work with a CBTAC. The CBTAC is responsible for helping the customer develop a required business plan, and a detailed feasibility study must be held to determine the viability of the business plan. The feasibility study includes a business and test marketing plan, and formal feasibility studies may be conducted in some cases. The self-employment business must also meet the definition of Competitive Integrated Employment. Also, a benefits analysis must be conducted for customers who are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The following chart displays the CBTAC payment system since 2014, which remains in place for 2021.
|Initial Self-Employment Exploration Meeting(s)* (please note previously titled Initial Meeting)||$300|
|Business Concept Development||$1750|
|Market Research and Benefits Analysis||$600|
|Business Financials and Marketing Plans||$1750|
|Business Plan Development||$600|
|Completed Business Plan||$2000|
The Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) requirements mandate the creation of a financially viable business plan. The individual must directly contribute to the operation of a business service, development of a product, or perform a core function of the business. It must be carried out through sole proprietorship, partnerships, or for profit corporations. VR funding is considered and may become available once the business plan is complete. Florida policy does not specify funding limits or match requirements, although financial participation is considered for all services, as well as the SSI Plan to Achieve Self Support (PASS) program. Additional contribution by family members or the individual and other funding sources are encouraged. VR’s funding support normally extends only to start-up costs necessary to establish a new business or to help stabilize a small business in which reasons related to the individual’s disability requires changes to the product, services, or methods of operation. If additional services are needed, the IPE must be amended. FL VR will not fund speculative businesses, businesses organized as hobbies, non-profits, the refinancing of existing debt, an existing business expansion, or illegal or franchise businesses.
Florida VR funds implementation hours, which allow the CBTAC to help the business owner after the business plan has been developed but before the business has launched, at $39/hour. VR will also fund occupational licenses, tools, equipment, initial stocks and supplies if included in the business plan, over $500 requires area approval.
Case closure requirements consist of 90 days of profitable business operation for self-employment and 150 days for supported self-employment. One indication of business profitability is that the customer no longer needs SSI or SSDI.
Florida Division of Blind Services
Policy Summary on Self-Employment:
The Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS) defines self-employment as an employment model in which the client owns, manages, and operates a small business for profit and is not considered to be an employee of another person, business, or organization. DBS may assist a client in establishing an independently operated business with the client owning at least 51% of the business.
All individuals requesting DBS support in self-employment must complete and submit a business plan to the State Office for review and approval by the Bureau Chief of Client Services. Decisions to support or deny the business are based on the recommendations of an outside business consultant (currently SCORE.org), and DBS recommends (but does not require) referring individuals interested in starting a business to the Small Business Development Center of community college for training or assistance with writing the business plan. DBS also recommends that individuals obtain business development courses offered by the Hadley School for the Blind.
FL DBS sponsors self-employment services only one-time. Services may include the following: training/education in the actual field of work; referral and coordination with the Small Business Development Center or other local resource (community college, university, etc.) for basic business administration courses and counseling; business consulting services; licensing fees and other start-up costs; financing required to leverage other small business loans for additional expenses including stock, supplies, and equipment; personal computer equipment including adaptive technology; and other start-up costs. DBS will not provide funding or be involved in assisting client plans for: businesses that are speculative in nature, such as investments in real estate; non-profits; hobbies, i.e., any business that is not designed to make money or a profit; franchise or goodwill fees (i.e., trademarks, customer bases); construction and/or purchase of real estate or land; refinancing an existing debt; or investment in an existing business that is in financial jeopardy.
FL DBS funding limits range from $5,000 to $15,000, but funding should not exceed 80% of the total cost of establishing the business. DBS will not be the sole source of funding and expects the primary business funding to come from public or private sources, including loans, venture capital, grants, or funds obtained from the Social Security Administration’s “Plan to Achieve Self-Sufficiency" program. DBS also allows for “in-kind” contributions from the client and family. Any requests for funding above $15,000 require approval from the agency’s senior management. If funds are provided directly to the client for purchase of business items, receipts must be provided to the Counselor.
The business must be successful for 90 days for the client’s case to be closed in self-employment.
Florida Blind VR Policy Manual: http://dbs.myflorida.com/Leadership/Policies/02.10-self-employment-services.html
These resources are designed to benefit all entrepreneurs but can be useful to business owners with disabilities.