Minnesota State Policies
Minnesota DEED Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Policy Summary on Self-Employment:
Minnesota VRS offers technical assistance and consultation services to support individuals pursuing self-employment. Assistance is given to individuals whose self-employment goal aligns with their strengths, resources, capabilities, and informed choice and will allow them to achieve competitive integrated employment. VRS defines self-employment as a small business, or “an entity whereby an individual earns their livelihood directly from the sale of their goods or services rather than as the employee of another.” VRS does not support businesses which are in violation of federal or state laws, are speculative or high-risk business ventures, or hobbies (i.e., businesses that do not produce income).
Before receiving support, an individual undergoes an assessment designed to evaluate their capacity for self-employment. If self-employment is a deemed a feasible vocational goal, the individual is referred to small business development resources, who help them develop their business idea. Self-employment proposals cannot be included on an individual’s employment plan until an agency Small Business Development Specialist has been consulted.
To receive start-up or stabilization funding, the individual must create and submit a business plan to the agency. If needed, supports are provided to assist with the development of the plan. The individual’s business plan must contain a detailed description of the business, financial data, a marketing analysis, a description of the individual’s relevant expertise and skills, any licensing or zoning requirements, a list of anticipated risks, and an implementation or stabilization schedule that includes the business start-up or stabilization costs.
Business plans with a total cost below Minnesota’s Authority for Local Purchase (ALP) level must be deemed viable by a VRS Small Business Development Specialist, a state or nationally chartered lending institution, or a Micro-Enterprise program. Plans with a total cost above the ALP can only be deemed viable by the latter two. The lending institution or Micro-Enterprise program reviewing the business plan cannot be affiliated with anyone who assisted in the creation of the plan.
VRS funding of start-up or stabilization costs are restricted by the small business fee schedule described in the Vocational Rehabilitation Rule; the business fee schedule is updated every year. The costs of any technology or training needed to accommodate the individual’s disability are not counted in the business fee schedule. Individuals whose gross family income is higher than Minnesota's consumer financial participation threshold must pay for a portion of the VR services they receive. The required payment is equivalent to the percentage by which their income exceeds the participation threshold (e.g., an individual with a gross income 10% higher than the threshold would pay 10% of the cost of the services provided). An individual can obtain self-employment services from in-state or out-of-state providers, but VR does not cover costs exceeding those charged by in-state providers.
Case closure is determined on an individual basis. In all cases, a VRS Small Business Development Specialist must be consulted before closure occurs.
Minnesota Administrative Rules: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/rules/3300/
Minnesota Policy Manual: https://apps.deed.state.mn.us/ddp/PolicyDetail.aspx?pol=52
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
State Services for the Blind (SSB)
Policy Summary on Self-Employment:
Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB) views self-employment as an option for eligible individuals to achieve a successful employment outcome. It uses a detailed 9-step process to increase the likelihood of success.
When an individual expresses interest in self-employment, the Counselor shares and reviews the SSB “Self-Employment Workbook for Individuals”. This Workbook has multiple exercises for individuals to complete with the support of their Counselors. The exercises help assess their aptitude for self-employment and discuss their career goal and business concept.
Individual Plans for Employment (IPE) for self-employment identify the career goal rather than a goal of business ownership. Developing the IPE allows the Counselor to provide services related to the career goal and further explore the option of self-employment. The Counselor and individual continue discussions about self-employment, including wages, what it takes to start a business and services and resources the individual might need to be successful. If the Counselor and individual determine self-employment is appropriate, the individual begins developing a business plan. SSB can pay for technical assistance to help develop the plan.
The business plan is required to be reviewed externally and internally. The individual and counselor select an external reviewer who appears to be the best match and has not previously assisted in creating the business plan. If the external reviewer supports the venture, the business plan is reviewed by the Internal Review Committee (IRC). This committee is made up of SBB’s employment specialists who have in-depth knowledge of the labor market and small business. Both review processes have internal documents that are used to guide the activity. When the business plan is approved, the IPE is amended to add the services and resources for the business.
SBB may be able to provide funding up to $5000.00 and up to six-months’ worth of business start-up expenses. Funding is based on the needs of the business and could include initial costs for marketing, accounting, and insurance; licenses and permits; and business lease. SSB cannot fund not-for-profits, hobby businesses, real estate or land, employee salaries, vehicles or ongoing expenses beyond six months. Services that are not subject to the $5000.00 limit include assessment services, referrals to community resources, training and education in the field of work, and assistance finding other funding sources. Funding over $5000.00 may be approved by the Deputy Director of Program Services based on the disability-related needs of the individual.
SSB can support existing businesses. However, services provided must be related to the needs of the individual, such as services which allow the individual to operate their business more effectively, and not based on the needs of the business. For example, they cannot fund renting a bigger space or purchasing new equipment.
Self-employment case closure criteria are determined by the counselor and the individual. Both must agree that the employment outcome is as described in the IPE, the employment has been maintained for 90 days, the employment outcome is satisfactory, and the individual is performing well. While part of the closure requirements describes being paid at or above minimum wage or what is customarily paid by an employer for similar work and skills, SSB recognizes that often business ventures do not become profitable for several years, so success is defined based on the individual and their business.
SBB can fund Supported Self-Employment. They define this as individuals owning their own businesses and receiving on-going support and assistance in the operation of the business. This on-going support can come from a variety of sources including Wavier Programs through the Minnesota Department of Human Services. In these cases, both self-employment and supported employment policies are to be followed.