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March 28. 2013 5:59PM

NH Senate supports ‘no cost’ program to help skilled unemployed start own businesses

CONCORD -- Highly-skilled unemployed Granite Staters may be eligible for a new assistance program in the Department of Employment Security if legislation passed  by the state Senate Thursday clears the House and becomes law.

“Pathway to Work” is a “no cost” program to encourage “entrepreneurial people” to create their own businesses, said Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen of Concord, who is sponsoring the bill, which passed the Senate, 19-5.

It is the fourth component of a three-part “New Hampshire Working” program announced by former Gov. John Lynch in 2010.

Larsen said the program is of no cost to the state or its businesses because those eligible are already collecting unemployment compensation for 26 weeks.

She said that those who qualify, and she said it will be a small number, while collecting those benefits would go to the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center to receive necessary training to encourage them to try their hands at starting their businesses.

Larsen said she envisions the program helping “a segment of skilled, older people who have job development ideas.”

Sen. Andy Sanborn, R-Bedford, asked that the program be killed because he said it will not be cost-free and will cost the business community “$405,000 a week to support this program.”

Larsen said Sanborn’s figures were inaccurate.

“Every once in a while we do something good in this Senate,” said state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, in support of the bill.

“This is something good,” he said. “Rather than letting people just stand there for 26 weeks and collect, this gives them an incentive to start their own businesses. It’s invigorating for the economy.”

“Several other states including New York, Oregon, and New Jersey have a greater than 50 percent success rate in transitioning entrepreneurial unemployed persons into meaningful work,” Larsen said in a statement following the vote.

“Senate Democrats and Republicans talk about ensuring New Hampshire workers have the skills and opportunities they need to succeed. Passing ‘Pathway to Work’ is a way to do that for unemployed people, particularly older more experienced workers, who are more likely to exhaust their state benefits,” she said.

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