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Mission: self-help.

Innovative programs that help the unemployed and people on public assistance start their own businesses are beginning to have an impact. These programs use "micro-lending" - giving modest amounts ranging from $550 to $100,000 to would-be entreprenuers. The loans - which are smaller than most bank loans - are seen as a way to encourage self-sufficiency and create new small businesses.

With 9.1 million workers unemployed in April and more than 13.3 million people on welfare, the number of individuals relying on government help to survive has created problems. But despite distressing numbers, observers says there is hope. "Expanding entreprenuership is crucial," says Kathy Keeley, policy committee vice chair of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity. "With the economy as it is, we can't keep doing things the old way. In the long run, this approach should get people off government rolls sooner."

A variety of programs have helped people start businesses such as bakeries, clothing stores, and word-processing firms. Here is a short list of programs across the country: * The Massachusetts Enterprise Project (MEP) is a three-year pilot program that helps people receiving unemployment benefits in the state start businesses. MEP's 500 participants receive intensive business development training. Normal unemployment benefit guidelines are waived so that participants continue to receive a stipend equal to their unemployment compensation for up to 24 weeks while their business gets off the ground. About 80% of the first year's class was still in business a year later. For more information, call 617-727-1826. * The Los Angeles-based Coalition for Women's Economic Development (CWED) sponsors a 12-week micro-business course for low-income women. Participants are taught how to obtain a business license, price, market, advertise and more. "Solidarity circles" are formed, where five women act as a support group, to counsel and assume each other's debt if necessary.

Women can apply for loans of up to $1,500 at 15% interest. If they repay the first loan on time, they can then borrow up to $5,000. Seventy-five loans have been made with no defaults. For more information, call 213-489-1202. * The Detroit Self Employment Project (DSEP) helps recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) start small businesses. After completing an 11-week training program, DSEP offers participants loans of $500 to $10,000 through a consortium of local banks. AFDC recipients can continue to receive aid for up to two years while recycling any income they generate back into the business. More than 200 people have completed training since 1988. Fore more information call 313-577-5693.
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Title Annotation:programs train unemployed to be entrepreneurs
Author:Gallant-Stokes, Trudy
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Words:418
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