Washington State Policies & Resources
Washington Self-Employment Services Policy:
The VR Supervisor must approve any self-employment service, including feasibility analysis for a self-employment enterprise. This means that the VRS must be consulted for a determination during vocational assessment and prior to IPE signatures and approval, as the feasibility study should not be included on the customer’s IPE.
In consulting about and approving services that will lead to an employment outcome in self-employment, the VRS should find a clear rationale written by the VRC in the case narrative explaining how the following information about the customer indicates the customer’s likely success in self-employment:
1. The customer’s ability to maintain and retain the specific self-employment enterprise under consideration, including, but not limited to any:
• Disability-related issues or concerns;
• Barriers to employment and how self-employment addresses these barriers;
• Strengths and interpersonal skills;
• Resources, including financial resources;
• Money management skills;
• Credit history, including bankruptcy;
• Overdue child support;
• Tax or debt issues;
• Other legal proceedings;
• Long-term supports, if supported employment is required; and
• Income needs.
2. The customer must have resolved bankruptcy or other legal proceedings, overdue child support, and overdue taxes prior to the development of an individualized plan for employment (IPE) with self-employment as the employment outcome. DVR does not assist with the payment of court fees, attorney fees, fines, or penalties related to illegal acts that result from any civil or criminal legal proceedings or related matters.
3. The customer has the specific skills and aptitudes (or is likely to obtain the specific skills and aptitudes) to perform the essential functions of the job tasks required by the self-employment enterprise under consideration.
The VRS may approve the services based on the presence of these criteria.
State of Washington
Department of Services for the Blind
Self-Employment Policy Summary:
The State of Washington Department of Services for the Blind (WA-DSB) defines self-employment as a participant-owned, managed and operated business that sells goods or services for the purpose of making a profit.
DSB counselors are responsible for helping participants in exploring entrepreneurship to determine whether this choice is a good vocational fit for the individual. DSB counselors can support participants to explore self-employment through the following: counseling and guidance around self-employment that includes a discussion of critical employment factors, informational interviews with business owners, attending community trainings/workshops or job shadowing to a name a few. The VRC and participant should identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats/challenges to the participant’s fit as an entrepreneur.
Once self-employment is determined to be a good fit for an individual, the counselor works with the participant directly to identify and develop a business idea into a feasible and sustainable business plan, or can connect the participant to community resources to develop a feasibility study and business plan.
Self-employment opportunities must be “for profit”. Businesses must be formed as a sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation, and the participant must own 51% of the business or greater. The expectation is the participant will make adequate competitive income at or above Washington State minimum wage. WA DSB does not support self-employment opportunities that are personal hobbies or activities that do not produce competitive income, non-profits, speculative businesses in nature or business ventures that include the procurement, manufacture or sale of marijuana or marijuana-related products.
Business Idea and Feasibility
DSB supports participants to identify a business idea if needed after self-employment has been identified as a good vocational fit. It is expected that the participant has mastered the adaptive skills necessary to be a business owner before their business plan is proposed to the self-employment committee and that the VR case has provided any necessary adaptive equipment beforehand. The VRC will confirm that mastery of the necessary adaptive skills is complete when the VRC sends the business plan proposal request to the Self-Employment Committee.
DSB may provide support such as training, business plan development, rehabilitation technology, and disability-related job site modifications and accommodations. Please reference the DSB policy for a list of examples.
After the participant has identified a solid business idea, feasibility of the concept should be explored. A feasibility study should provide the participant and counselor enough information to determine whether to develop a detailed business plan proposal or explore a new vocational direction. The VRC and participant can decide of feasibility together, or the counselor can secure the services of a vendor to assist with a determination. The VRC can also refer the participant to Self-Employment Committee Chair for exploratory conversation. For determining feasibility, market analysis should focus on the local marketplace, and the marketing plan should have clear data about the intended consumer that will be purchasing the products or services. A feasibility outline is referenced in the DSB policy.
The final step is to put together a Self-Employment Business Proposal that is submitted to the DSB Self-Employment Committee for approval. The Self-Employment Business Proposal assures that all relevant business facets of the proposed venture are considered in sufficient detail for the participant and DSB’s Self-Employment Committee to assess and decide whether the venture’s potential for success outweighs possible risks or liabilities. Once the Self-Employment Business Proposal is approved by the committee it is then that the BSP counselor revises the IPE goal to reflect self-employment.
Funding and Start-Up Costs
DSB supports business start-up costs and does not list a financial match requirement from the participant. The DSB counselor will work with the participant and consultant (when applicable) to explore all comparable services state and federal to look for additional start-up resources to support start-up costs. Financial resources include the participant’s own financial resources, tools and equipment purchased by participant, and may include support from:
- Liquidation of the participant’s personal assets
- Social Security Work Incentives such as a Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) for the participant, if the participant receives SSI benefits
- Individual Development Savings Accounts Washington State ABLE Savings Plan
- NW Access Fund (NWAF) funding opportunities Northwest Access Fund – NWAF
DSB supports agency approved business plans and start-up costs. DSB’s financial support is approved by a committee, and they may authorize the following;
- 25% of initial year, three months, projected revenue or a maximum of $20,000 (revenue is defined as money generated by business sales before expenses).
- 90 days of initial stock and materials. Any amounts greater than this would be considered on an exception basis.
- Purchases over the agency’s aggregated Direct Buy limit; must be competitively bid. Limited exceptions to competition may include single source and emergency purchases.
For a list of approved/not approved goods and services that can be provided as part of the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) please reference WA-DSB policy.
Before closing a self-employment case as rehabilitated, the VRC must ensure that the following criteria are met:
- The business has been in operation for 9 months
- Business stability has been achieved as defined in the IPE
- Financial statements are provided to the VRC monthly up to 12 months
- Follow along counseling and guidance has been provided to inform the participant of responsibilities of business ownership and taxation
o A business consultant may be brought in to assist with follow along services as business is initialized
It may be necessary to wait beyond the 9 month follow-along period before determining that the employment is stable.
Self-Employment Job Retention
DSB does offer self-employment job retention support for participants who are currently in a successful self-employment venture and risk losing their business due to a visual impairment. Services can be provided under the IPE.
The following represents job retention versus initial business start-up:
- The participant is an established business owner, independent contractor or contract laborer as defined by the Department of Labor
- DSB is not being requested to pay for the costs associated with starting or maintaining a business, but rather to address the impact of disability on running the business.
Please reference WA DSB policy for additional information.
The following downloadable PDF contains statewide self-employment resources and links for people with disabilities.