New England Business Associates Salutes Client Economic Advancement

Economic development is often defined as reaching an increased level of financial stability. For most people that translates to working and being financially self-supporting. Individuals receiving government benefits are encouraged by society and other factors to stay on funded benefits.  To work towards self-sufficiency and stop government funded benefits requires a great deal of support and information from a wide range of resources. 

At its April 16th, NEBA Salutes, dinner, New England Business Associates (NEBA) recognized two individuals who have attained the unique status of ending government funded benefits.  These individuals made decisions to work towards financial self-sufficiency in the competitive workforce.  

Sandra is working with a major health organization and looking forward to the purchase of her first car.  Jose is using his MBA for the first time in over a decade to work in a business setting that solves and monitors complex financial situations.  Both individuals shared their story with a group of other individuals also seeking to attain financial selfsufficiency.  

Individuals receiving Social Security benefits and seeking information regarding the Ticket to Work program should go to http://www.chooseworkttw.net.  NEBA is a TTW agency and can provide individual information on this program.

This event was funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation and is part of a program to support Massachusetts residents in attaining economic sustainability through employment or self-employment.

 

Navigating the Maze of Social Security

Most people never want to be in a situation where they must rely on Social Security benefits to make ends meet. However, these benefits provide an essential safety net when an individual is faced with a disability or other significant barrier to work.

When a Social Security disability beneficiary determines that they are able to return to work, they are often unsure of how much work they will be able to perform and how their income will affect their benefit. Social Security is such a complex program, with so many moving parts, scenario contingencies, and rules within rules that it is nearly impossible to comprehend.

Because of the complexity of Social Security, and because each benefit situation is unique, NEBA relies on professionals who have gained an extremely thorough understanding of the program to meet with beneficiaries and their families. These benefits counselors work for programs called Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) and Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS), which also provides legal services for beneficiaries.

Benefits counselors are absolutely essential in helping beneficiaries and their families understand the rules, risks and rewards involved with going back to work. In almost every case, beneficiaries emerge from their consultations with a thorough understanding of their benefit situation and are much more confident to attempt working again to the best of their ability.

Unfortunately, funding for the WIPA and PABSS programs is now in jeopardy. Congress has failed to re-authorize the WIPA and PABSS programs, which are slated to be defunded as of June 30, 2012. We know that the WIPA and PABSS programs are effective in empowering individuals with disabilities with the knowledge they need to navigate the Social Security maze and confidently return to the workforce. Many of these workers do remain employed, gradually reducing or eliminating their need for government benefits while generating income tax revenue.

For more information about the WIPA and PABSS programs and the efforts to save them, please visit the National Employment Network Association.

About “Ticket to Work”

Several images come to mind when I think of tickets: A multitude of parking tickets left on my windshield; concert tickets for some amazing (and some awful) memories of live music; and baseball tickets for summer nights at the ballpark.

At NEBA, when someone mentions tickets they are usually referring to a program of the Social Security Administration called “Ticket to Work”.  In this program, tickets are sent to individuals with disabilities when they begin receiving SSI or SSDI disability insurance payments. With their ticket, recipients are able to retain the services of a registered employment network (EN) to help them return to work.

An EN is a private organization (can be a for-profit or nonprofit), government agency, or employer that has agreed to work with the Social Security Administration to provide employment services. When a ticket is assigned to NEBA, we meet with the ticket holder to set goals and develop an employment work plan. The plan helps to determine the work timeline, training needs, and income goals and requirements.

Because a disability check can be one of the few constants in an individual’s (or even a family’s) income, the prospect of losing this benefit can be frightening. The Ticket to Work program is designed to reduce this fear by allowing each ticket holder to return to work for a trial work period. During this time, they are able to determine their ability to consistently achieve a monthly income benchmark while still receiving full disability benefits. If they consistently meet the benchmark, they will be able to earn more money and improve their financial stability. If they are unable to consistently meet the minimum income requirements, they are able to retain their disability benefits.

The Ticket to Work program is also beneficial to our economy. When someone in their 20s or 30s returns to work and permanently stops receiving their disability benefit checks, taxpayers save at least $500,000. The government benefits from increased tax revenue, and employers benefit from the expanded pool of qualified candidates.

We’re all very quick to get on the government’s case when they do something wrong, but we should also give credit when the government produces a beneficial program such as Ticket to Work.

Eric Fiedler, NEBA Outreach & Development Coordinator

The NEBA Business Development Center and Self-Employment

 

Who might be the next Donald Trump?

For the NEBA Business Development Center (BDC) that person could be any one of the 30-plus entrepreneurs who have completed a business plan through our program.

Since 2007, 83 individuals have explored the possibility of starting a business through the NEBA program. Did they all complete the self-employment path?  No.  But each individual did discover what the right path might be for becoming self-supporting. The 39 individuals that made the commitment to own a business and become self-employed are striving to be self-supporting and self-directed.

How did these individuals become self-employed?

The BDC offers assistance to people with disabilities to establish their own business. The program provides entrepreneurial training from the development of a business concept, the writing of a business plan to assisting, as needed, in the actual implementation of the business.

The program started by serving five individuals with a spectrum of disability challenges, and now serves 51 active participants. Direct service hours have expanded from 50 hours in the first year to 1,122 hours in FY 2010-2011. To date 39 plans have been written.

Program participants come by referral and as “walk-ins”. Most are Social Security beneficiaries using their Ticket to Work benefit. The goal of the BDC program fits perfectly with the goal of the Ticket to Work program; to assist participants in being self-supporting.

Once accepted into the BDC program the participant begins a series of weekly meetings that continue for an average of 60 hours to complete a SCORE-based plan. (SCORE is a program of the Small Business Administration to assist new business owners).

The BDC curriculum develops a participant’s financial literacy based on managing business operating costs, monitoring cash flow and developing business equity. Computer competency, using Word and Excel, is another outcome of the program. Participants work to develop their business idea, complete a business plan and implement their business concept.

The course begins with the development of the business financials. Operating expense information gives the participant an understanding of what it costs to run the business they have in mind. Expense information reveals the product or service price needed to cover costs. Participants develop three years of financials and the narrative to explain the financials.

In the current economic environment self-employment growth from all sectors of the population is a critical component to the revival of the general economy. Ironically, any surge in new business development has historically been during times of economic recession.  This is true for the disabled as well as the non-disabled.

If you know anyone with a disability that is interested in being self-supporting, share this blog. The NEBA website www.nebaworks.com provides information on both supported employment and self-employment.  Both paths lead to being self-supporting.

How can more individuals with disabilities participate in the current economic revival?

Explore the possibility of self-employment through a personal assessment.

Why is being self-supporting a benefit to all?

When the entire community is self-supporting, there is more for everyone.

Colleen M Moynihan,  M Ed,  CLU, CMFC
Director, NEBA Business Development Center

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