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July 12, 2013

N.H. leads jobless on 'Pathway to Work'

Hassan signs Pathway to Work

CONCORD — New Hampshire is getting into do-it-yourself employment.

Gov. Maggie Hassan yesterday signed into law the “Pathway to Work” bill to help people start their own businesses while they are receiving unemployment.

The state’s Small Business Development Center will assist laid-off workers with entrepreneurial training, business counseling and technical assistance.

Sen. Sylvia Larsen, D-Concord, prime sponsor of the bill, told a Senate panel last winter the program could benefit older, experienced workers struggling to find work.

“What is missing in our current unemployment compensation system is an option during the time of unemployment for someone who wants to start his or her own business,” Larsen testified. “Pathway to Work would correct that glaring omission in a state that values entrepreneurism and self-reliance.”

While billed as a no-cost program to the state, a legislative analysis concluded it’s actually low cost, pegging the annual expense to the state at less than $10,000.

New Hampshire Employment Security general counsel Maria Dalterio, in testimony before the Senate panel, said participation would be capped at 5 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits, or about 600.

Applicants will have to show they have financial resources and a business plan to get started, she told senators.

“We could analyze well whether the person is likely to succeed,” she testified.

State employment officials also must conclude the applicant is likely to exhaust unemployment benefits.

Participants will have to have at least 18 of their 26 weeks of benefits remaining to get into Pathway to Work.

But the state would excuse them from the requirement of actively seeking work, as long as they were trying to start their own business.

Larsen said other states have had a 60 percent success rate with similar programs.

John Post, a mentor with Merrimack Valley NH SCORE, the free business startup advisory group, said the Pathway program could help if it directs people to established resources.

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