BESB: Vocational Rehabilitation Services Handbook

 

DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION SERVICES

 

BUREAU OF EDUCATION AND SERVICES FOR THE BLIND (BESB)

 

YOUR VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION PROGRAM AND SERVICES

 

 


Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB)

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

 

Your Individualized Plan for Employment

 

Congratulations!  You have been found eligible for services through our Vocational Rehabilitation Program.  The goal of our program is to help you to obtain or keep employment in a career that matches your interests, capabilities and skills.  There are many services that can be provided to make it possible for you to achieve your career goal.  Some of the more commonly provided services are described in these pages.  You can get more information about the various vocational services available to you by speaking with your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor.

 

What is an IPE?

 

The IPE is your Individualized Plan for Employment.  This is a written document that describes your career goal, the services that may be provided to help you reach your goal as well as some of the companies and vendors that can help to provide these services.  The IPE also explains our responsibilities to you and your responsibilities to the vocational rehabilitation process.  Working in partnership with your Counselor is very important for the plan to be successful.  Our Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors will offer their expertise and experience to you so that you can make decisions about your career choice and the services that will help you reach your goal.  They can also tell you about the companies and vendors that we work with, so that you will be able to select those providers that match your personal preferences whenever possible.  Should you decide that you would rather develop your IPE with assistance from someone other than your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, we can give you the names of other providers who can be of assistance.

 

If you choose to develop your IPE alone or with the assistance of a provider, you would then meet with your BESB Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to discuss your vocational plan and services. 

 

After you and your BESB Counselor agree to the contents of the IPE, you will each sign it. Your Counselor will give you a copy of the completed IPE form. At that time, we can begin to provide and coordinate the services listed in your plan.

 

What happens if my Counselor and I don’t agree on the IPE?

 

It is important that you and your Counselor reach an agreement on your career goal, the services and the vendors that are included in the plan.  If a disagreement occurs, your Counselor will explain his or her concerns and offer some ideas on how to resolve the differences.  Sometimes, evaluations or testing may be helpful to learn more about your abilities.  We encourage you to work with your Counselor when additional information is required to help with planning for your employment future.

 

If you feel that you and your Counselor are unable to work out a disagreement, then you can call the Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisor at (860) 602-4032 or toll free at 1-800 842-4510, extension 4032 to discuss your situation.  A meeting with the Supervisor and the Counselor together may help resolve these situations.  You may also contact the Client Assistance Program to speak with an advocate if you prefer.  Their telephone number is (860) 297-4300 in the Hartford area or 1-800 842-7303 toll free. 

 

What happens if I need additional services or want to change my employment goal?

 

Your Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) will be reviewed with you at least once every year, although you may request additional reviews at any time simply by calling your Counselor.  If you and your Counselor agree that your IPE no longer reflects your employment goal, or if you mutually agree that additional services are needed for you to achieve your career goal, then the IPE can be updated.  This process is called an IPE Amendment.  Your IPE can be amended in two ways.  The first way is with a formal IPE Amendment and the second way is with an IPE Addendum.

 

An IPE Amendment form will be used when there are substantial changes being made to your original IPE, such as changing your career goal or adding extensive services.  Some of the many examples of extensive services would be the addition of college training in order to earn a degree needed for your career goal, or adding a residential personal adjustment to blindness training program to your plan.  You and your Counselor will sign an IPE Amendment form after agreeing to the additions or changes.  Your Counselor will give you a copy of the completed Amendment form.

 

An IPE Addendum letter will be used when you and your Counselor agree that the changes being made are minor additions needed to help you achieve your career goal.  Minor changes would include adding a new vendor to the plan or adding a related service to one that is already listed in your IPE.  Examples of related minor services could be adding specialized low vision examinations and glasses to help you with using a large print computer, or adding reader services to help with your college assignments.  Using the IPE addendum process helps to provide the services to you in less time because your Counselor can complete this process with you over the telephone.  An IPE Addendum letter will be sent to you that outlines the mutually agreed to changes to your IPE.

 

Please keep in mind that your Counselor may request that you participate in special evaluations so that each of you can find out more about your skills and abilities before agreeing to change your career goal.  If you are unsure about the purpose of these evaluations, please discuss this with your Counselor.

 

Counseling and Guidance

 

Your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor will provide you with counseling and guidance while you are receiving services from us.  The purpose of this type of counseling is to help you continue to make informed decisions about your career choice, the services being provided and the providers of these services.  Your Counselor will share with you the results of the evaluations or trainings that you attended, and will explain the next steps that will help to bring about employment success.

 

Counseling and guidance does not include therapy or psychological services.  Nor does it include prescribing or dispensing medications.

 

If you feel that you are in need of counseling assistance to help with depression, or other emotional conditions, please let your Counselor know.  We can refer you to professionals who can help, including Social Workers, Psychologists and Psychiatrists.  In many situations, we can pay for these services if they are necessary to help you reach your career goal.  If you have insurance coverage we can assist you in coordinating your benefits to help with the cost of these services.

 

In addition to Guidance and Counseling, there are many services available to you as a participant in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.  The attached pages describe some of the services that may be of interest to you.  This list is not intended to represent every service that may be necessary to help you obtain your vocational goal.  It is intended to give you a broad understanding of the types of options that exist.  It is very important that you and your Counselor discuss your individual goals and priorities so that he or she can provide you with the specific information that will assist you in choosing the services and vendors that will lead to your employment success.  It is very important that you understand that the services provided under an IPE must be tied to your vocational goal or a specific job task. Services that are not vocationally relevant cannot be provided under an IPE.


 

Low Vision Services

 

We work with specially trained eye doctors across the state who are familiar with eye diseases and the low vision aids that will help you to use your remaining vision.  While there are no special glasses that can restore your vision fully, these doctors can often prescribe items that will make it easier for you to read.

 

We are able to pay for the items that are recommended by the doctor if they are needed to help you work toward your employment goal or perform a job task.  Examples of this would be situations where stronger prescription glasses or magnifiers are needed to help you read information for school assignments, job assignments or to participate in job training programs.  We are not able to pay for these items if you only desire them for personal, recreational or leisure time activities.

 

After you select an eye doctor from our approved Low Vision Provider list, we will send an authorization request to the doctor’s office.  You will receive a letter in the mail from us, asking you to contact the doctor to schedule an appointment.  We will pay for the exam if your Counselor has authorized the service so it is very important that you wait for your Counselor to complete the authorization process before scheduling your appointment.  

 

After the doctor completes the exam, he or she will send your Counselor a list of items that are being recommended to help you with your employment goal.  Once again, your Counselor will send a written authorization to the doctor, giving permission to provide you with the low vision devices or prescription glasses and train you in their use.  After the doctor receives our letter of authorization, the aids will be ordered from the manufacturer.  The eye doctor will call you when the glasses or magnifiers have been received and are ready for you to pick them up.  It may take a month or longer from the time you see the doctor until the time when your glasses or magnifiers are ready.  That is because we have to wait for the low vision aid request form from the doctor before we can process our paperwork.  Once we process the low vision aid authorization we will notify the eye doctor that we have given approval to order your aids.  Additional delays may occur if the manufacturer of the aids does not have them in stock.

 

We appreciate your patience and encourage you to speak with your Counselor to get updates on your situation.


 

Rehabilitation Technology and Adaptive Equipment

 

Advances in computers have opened up a world of employment possibilities to people with vision impairments.  Careers that just a few short years ago were inaccessible to people with limited or no vision are now possible with adaptive technology.

 

Our Vocational Rehabilitation Program employs two full-time Technologists, who both specialize in adaptive technology.  They will be able to evaluate your situation, review your vocational needs and make recommendations for the types of products that will enable you to participate in evaluations, training programs and employment.

 

Your Counselor will speak to you about adaptive technology and how it can help you.  If you agree with the need for this service, it will be included in your Individualized Plan for Employment.  A Rehabilitation Technologist will meet with you and discuss your preferences.  He or she will explain about Braille, speech output and large print, and give you the opportunity to try out various adaptive products.  You will be asked to discuss your preferences so that the Technologist can consider them when completing the evaluation and recommendation report.

 

Our policy is to provide the most effective but least expensive products that will help you to participate in vocational evaluations, training or employment.  If there are two very similar products that can accomplish the same task for you, we will provide you with the least expensive of those products.  Therefore, it is imperative that you work with the Technologist to try out the products that are available, so that we can provide the best possible match for your situation. If you are working and need the equipment to assist you with performing job tasks, we will want to speak with your employer about the adaptations that are recommended for you. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to their employees who have disabilities. Your Counselor will ask your employer to assist with the cost of providing the equipment that you need for your job.  We will provide adaptive equipment that the employer is not able to obtain or purchase if it is essential for your job.  However, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide you with standard business equipment such as computers and printers that are provided to all other employees performing similar jobs to yours.

 

After the Technologist completes the evaluation, he or she will provide a recommendation report to your Counselor identifying the devices that can assist you in performing your employment or training tasks.  If you would like a copy of this report, please ask the Technologist during the meeting with you.  Your Counselor will then place an order for the required equipment.  If your employer will be purchasing some of the recommended equipment, your Counselor will provide information to your employer on how they can obtain those items for you. We have a stock room at the bureau where we keep many of the commonly needed adapted products and computers.  We will provide items from this inventory first in order to speed up the process for you.  Unfortunately, it is not always possible to stock every item in our inventory.  Therefore, we may have to order some items for you from vendors which will lengthen the time it will take to get this equipment to you.

 

We will do everything possible to provide equipment to you as quickly as possible.  Please stay in contact with your Counselor regarding your situation, so that you will know how long it may take to get the equipment needed for your career goal.

 

Once the equipment is received at the bureau, we will arrange for it to be delivered to you.  Installation and training will be provided by one of our Rehabilitation Technologists or Rehabilitation Teachers, or by one of the contracted vendors who offer this service.  You will have an opportunity to participate in choosing the vendor who will provide you with training.

 

After the equipment is installed and you are shown that it is working properly, you will need to sign an ownership agreement. The ownership of the equipment will transfer to you at that time. You will be responsible for the maintenance and repair of the equipment from that point on. If the equipment is in need of repair, you may seek a reimbursement from the bureau after you pay for the repair. Your Counselor can provide you with information on vendors that repair adaptive equipment, and also provide you with additional information on how to seek reimbursement from the bureau for the repair costs that you pay for. Any equipment provided to you by your employer will not be subject to our policies for ownership or repair and you should discuss with your employer directly what their policies are for ownership, maintenance and repair.

 

We provide adaptive equipment so that you can participate in evaluations and training needed to work towards your career goal and for your use on the job.  We are not able to provide equipment for personal, recreational or leisure purposes. 


 

Skills Training

 

Once you have agreed to a career goal with your Counselor, there may be skills that you will need in order to become employable in that occupation.  For instance, if you would like to become a social worker, and you do not have the necessary college degrees, then vocational training would be needed.  We are able to provide funding and assistance for you to participate in vocational training programs in many situations.  Below are some examples along with a brief description of the services.

 

Personal Adjustment Training: This service is offered to people who desire to learn new ways to perform daily activities after experiencing vision loss.  While some of this training can be provided in the home through our staff Rehabilitation Teachers, for people who desire more complete training, we offer the option for you to attend an out-of-state residential program.  Our Rehabilitation Teachers can teach you how to cook safely, do laundry, house cleaning, pay bills, grocery shop and care for children.  Mobility Instructors at the bureau can teach you safe travel techniques within your home and community.  The residential centers can teach you many of these same things, but with the opportunity for more intensive training than what we are able to offer to you in your home.  The bureau can provide funding so that you can attend these programs, including the cost for room and board at the training centers.  Discuss these options with your Counselor and decide which may be best for your situation.

 

Vocational Training: We can provide short-term training through community rehabilitation providers to enable you to get the skills needed to obtain your career choice or retain current employment.  Services may include job seeking skills classes, computer training, and work adjustment in actual job situations.  We may also work with these providers to help identify employers who are hiring people with the types of skills that you have.  Through services such as “situational assessments” and “working interviews” you can have the opportunity to try out a job situation with a trainer from the program helping you adjust to the new situation.  These assessments give you and your Counselor information about your current skills.  Job offers may also result from these assessments on occasion.  Some vocational training programs are located out of state.  If you and your Counselor agree to participation at one of these provider locations, then the bureau will cover the cost of the program and room and board at the training center while you are there.

 

Higher Education Training

 

In certain situations, we are able to provide some funding if you are interested in a career that requires higher education training.  Higher education refers to classes that you take at colleges, universities, trade schools or approved certificate programs in order to obtain a degree or credential that qualifies you for a particular career.  These programs are found at public and private schools within the state as well as out of state.  You will have the opportunity to participate in choosing the program location that interests you, but it is important to understand that bureau funding will not be greater than the cost of tuition and fees and room and board at Central Connecticut State University if a comparable program of study is offered there.

 

The level of training needed will depend on your career goal.  For instance, if you and your Counselor agree on a goal of Psychologist, then you may be eligible to receive some funding from us for schooling up to and including graduate school.  However, the schooling needs to be directly related to your career goal in order to be eligible for funding from the bureau.  The level of funding that we can offer will vary from person to person based on individual circumstances.  You will need to apply for financial aid through the school that you desire to attend.  We will assist you with connecting to the right person at the school to begin this process, but much of the work will need to be completed by you.  

 

We will not be able to tell you what our level of funding support will be until you complete the financial aid application process with the school that you plan to attend.  The bureau cannot exceed a dollar calculation that is called the “unmet need”.  The “unmet need” is the difference between the costs associated with your attending the school and the dollar value of all financial resources that are available to you for school.  You can discuss the amount of available funding with your Counselor to decide how to best allocate the unmet need in your situation.

 

When you are in school, you will need to have an overall grade point average of 2.0 or higher to be eligible for continued financial support from the bureau.  Full time participation (4 classes or more each semester) is required unless you and your Counselor agree that your unique circumstances make that impractical.  If your Individualized Plan for Employment includes higher education training, please speak to your Counselor to get more information on your responsibilities and the process for obtaining funding from BESB.

 

Room and Board for Higher Education: If you decide to pursue your certificate or degree program at a location away from home, then the bureau may be able to cover some of the cost of room and board.  The actual amount of funding will depend on the results of your financial aid application process.  The highest level of funding available will not be greater than the cost of room and board at Central Connecticut State University if a comparable program of study is available there.  We are not able to cover the cost of rent for your primary home or apartment while you are attending school.  Room and board funding can only cover part of the cost of a secondary, temporary residence away from your home, so that you can participate in training.  Please speak to your Counselor to get more information about funding for this service.

 

Books and Supplies: The bureau is able to pay up to $60 per higher education course for required textbooks and school supplies.  Your Counselor will tell you the amount of funding that is being authorized and send a letter to the bookstore informing them of the funding level as well.  In circumstances where the bureau is also paying for tuition and fees or room and board for you, the amount of funding we provide for your textbooks may reduce the amount of funding we are able to provide in the other categories.  If you are not able to cover the cost of textbooks beyond the amount that the bureau is planning to fund, you can request additional funding by writing a letter to the Director of Vocational Rehabilitation, explaining your situation.  The Director will advise you in writing if additional funding can be provided for books, and issue a revised funding letter to the bookstore in these situations.

 

 However, please do not assume that the bureau will be able to cover additional amounts that have not been preauthorized by a bureau letter sent to the bookstore.    You will be responsible for covering any additional costs beyond the authorized amount, so it is very important to discuss your situation with your Counselor before making purchases at the bookstore.

 

Reader Services

 

The bureau is able to provide some funding for you to hire a reader to assist you with homework assignments and studying.  The amount of reader service will depend on your individual situation, but will not exceed 250 hours per semester unless there are very unusual circumstances.  The bureau will send a funding commitment letter to you, listing the total number of hours authorized and the amount of funding.  We are able to reimburse you at the state minimum wage for the cost of hiring a reader.  You will receive a set of blank receipts with the letter of authorization from the bureau.  After you interview and hire your reader, he or she will need to complete and sign the receipts for the hours of services they provide to you.  You can seek reimbursement from the bureau for the cost of the reader by sending these signed and dated receipts to the bureau along with a completed billing invoice that will be provided to you.  The bureau can only pay for the specific number of hours authorized on the letter that we send to you, so please do not go beyond that level, unless you are planning to cover the cost of the additional hours by yourself.  If you find that additional hours may be needed to complete your schoolwork, contact your Counselor as early in the semester as possible to discuss options.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, all colleges, universities and institutions of higher education are required to provide reasonable accommodations.  We will ask that you make contact with the school’s Disability Services office to request accommodations that are available to you.  This will include reader services for the time that you need while in the classroom or while participating in school sponsored events.  Reader Services can also be provided on a time limited basis when needed at your job.  Your employer may be able to cover some or all of the cost of reader services as a reasonable accommodation.  However, the bureau may also be able to cover some of the cost on a time limited basis, using the same process as described above.


 

Transportation for Training Programs or Employment

 

The bureau can provide funding for transportation in a variety of ways, so that you can participate in a training program or in an employment situation.  Your Counselor can discuss your individual situation with you. 

 

The following are basic guidelines regarding transportation:

 

The bureau will cover the cost of airfare, bus or train fare for you to attend an out of state program.  We will provide round trip fare through the State of Connecticut travel service for your commute to the program and for your return home at the conclusion of the program.  We will also cover the cost of your round trip travel fare to return home when the program is officially shut down for holidays while you are there.  However, if you choose to commute home from an out of state residential program more frequently, then you will need to pay for these additional trips.

 

If you are attending a training program that is within daily commuting distance of your home, the bureau can provide funding for bus fare, ADA paratransit or taxi services that contract with the bureau.  The bureau will send a funding commitment letter to you directly if you are choosing to use a bus or ADA paratransit.  The letter will list the total number of trips that you may seek reimbursement for.  You will not be able to obtain reimbursement for any amount of travel cost beyond the dollar amount listed on the commitment letter, so please pay close attention to this amount.  If you find that additional transportation funding is needed, please contact your Counselor as soon as possible to find out if a new commitment letter can be sent to you.  If you do not obtain a funding letter from the bureau for these additional trips, then you will be responsible for the excess costs.

 

In order to obtain reimbursement for travel costs, you will need to submit completed billing invoices to the bureau on the form that is sent to you with the commitment letter.  It is important to list the dates that you used the travel funding so that your payment can be processed quickly after you send back the completed form to the bureau.

 

If you will be using a taxi service for transportation, the bureau will send a funding letter directly to them, setting up an account for you to use.

 

Sometimes, there are no buses, ADA vans or taxi services in your area and the only option for you to commute to and from a training program is to find a volunteer or paid driver.  Our Volunteer Program Coordinator may be able to assist you with finding a person in your area who can provide transportation.  If that is not possible, then we may be able to provide funding at the state minimum wage level for you to hire a driver.  Mileage reimbursement funds at the state fee rate would also be made available in these situations.  The bureau will issue a funding commitment letter to you, listing the total number of driver hours at the minimum wage rate and the number of total miles that are eligible for reimbursement.  You will not be able to obtain reimbursement for any amount of travel cost beyond the dollar amount listed on the commitment letter, so please pay close attention to this amount.  If you find that additional transportation funding is needed, please contact your Counselor as soon as possible to find out if a new commitment letter can be sent to you.  If you do not obtain a funding letter from the bureau for these additional trips, then you will be responsible for the excess costs.  In order to obtain reimbursement for the driver and mileage, you will need to submit completed billing invoices to the bureau on the forms that we send to you with the commitment letter.  It is important to list the dates, number of hours and miles per trip so that your payment can be processed quickly after you send us the form.  The driver will also need to sign the travel receipt forms before you submit them to the bureau for reimbursement.

 

Transportation funding will only be provided for your use while you are attending the program.  Additional transportation funding can be made available for you to go to Job Fairs, job interviews, One Stop Career Centers or other locations that are related to your career goal if needed. Speak to your Counselor about these options in advance so that you will know what can be paid for.

 

After you obtain employment, funding for transportation can be provided if needed until you receive your second paycheck or complete your first month of employment, whichever comes first.  All of the transportation options described above are available to you, including bus fare, ADA paratransit fare, taxi service or hiring a driver.

 

Since transportation funding for your job is time limited, it is very important that you make other arrangements to cover your transportation needs after bureau funding ends.  Possibilities can include car pooling with coworkers or joining a ride share program.

 

Transportation for Post-Secondary school

 

When transportation is needed for you to attend programs of higher education such as colleges, universities and post secondary trade schools, the amount of funding available to you will be based on the results of your application for financial aid.  The bureau cannot exceed a dollar calculation that is called the “unmet need”.  You can discuss the amount of available funding with your Counselor to decide how to best allocate the unmet need in your situation.  Putting money towards tuition and fees or room and board may leave little or nothing left for transportation costs.  So it is very important for you to be active in this decision process with your Counselor.  If you decide to use some of the unmet need for transportation costs, then several options are available.

 

The bureau can provide funding for bus fare, ADA paratransit or taxi services that contract with the bureau.  Your Counselor will send a funding commitment letter to you directly if you are choosing to use bus or ADA paratransit.  The letter will list the total number of trips that you may seek reimbursement for.  You will not be able to obtain reimbursement for any amount of travel cost beyond the dollar amount listed on the commitment letter, so please pay close attention to this amount.  If you find that additional transportation funding is needed, please contact your Counselor as soon as possible to find out if a new commitment letter can be sent to you.  If you do not obtain a funding letter from the bureau for these additional trips, then you will be responsible for the excess costs.  In order to obtain reimbursement for your travel costs, you will need to submit completed billing invoices to the bureau on the form that we send to you with the commitment letter.  It is important to list the dates that you used the travel funding so that your payment can be processed quickly after you send us the form.

 

If you will be using a taxi service for transportation, the bureau will send a funding letter directly to them, setting up an account for you to use.

 

Sometimes, there are no buses, ADA vans or taxi services in your area and the only option for you to commute to and from a training program is to find a volunteer or paid driver.  Our Volunteer Program Coordinator may be able to assist you with finding a person in your area who can provide transportation.  If that is not possible, then we may be able to provide funding at the state minimum wage level for you to hire a driver.  Mileage reimbursement funds would be made available as well in these situations.  The bureau will issue a funding commitment letter to you, listing the total number of driver hours at the minimum wage rate and the number of total miles that are eligible for reimbursement.  You will not be able to obtain reimbursement for any amount of travel cost beyond the dollar amount listed on the commitment letter, so please pay close attention to this amount.  If you find that additional transportation funding is needed, please contact your Counselor as soon as possible to find out if a new commitment letter can be sent to you.  If you do not obtain a funding letter from the bureau for these additional trips, then you will be responsible for the excess costs.  In order to obtain reimbursement for the driver and mileage, you will need to submit completed billing invoices to the bureau on the forms that we send to you with the commitment letter.  It is important to list the dates, number of hours and miles per trip so that your payment can be processed quickly after you send us the form.  The driver will also need to sign the forms before you submit them to the bureau for reimbursement.


 

Personal Care Attendants

 

Personal care attendants are sometimes also referred to as PCA’s, aides or escorts.  They are people who provide assistance to a person with a disability who cannot personally do all aspects of daily activities such as eating, drinking, dressing or using a bathroom.  The bureau can provide some funding for personal care attendants so that a person with limited or no use of their arms or legs can participate in their vocational program.

 

If you have a disability that makes it difficult for you to personally attend to your self-care, then ask your Counselor about these services.  Funding is usually provided to an organization that is on contract with the bureau, using a fee for service hourly rate.  The bureau will provide a written authorization to the organization to cover the number of hours that will be needed for you to participate in your vocational evaluations or training programs.  If you have insurance coverage, we will ask for permission to contact them to find out if any other funds are available to pay for these costs before bureau funds are used.

 

The bureau has experienced a shortage of available personal care attendants.  Your Counselor may request that you assist with locating people who may desire to enter into a personal service agreement with the bureau.  You may also request an arrangement where you directly hire and pay the aide and seek reimbursement from the bureau.  In this situation, your Counselor would agree to authorize a certain number of hours at the prevailing rate for the service in your area of the state.  We will refer to the costs charged by social service agencies in your area for providing personal care aides to determine the prevailing rate.  The bureau would then issue a funding commitment letter to you that lists the number of hours authorized and the hourly rate approved.  To obtain reimbursement for the wages you directly pay the aide, you would complete the billing invoice sent to you by the bureau, and have your aide sign the forms to acknowledge the days and hours of service.

 

When a personal care attendant is needed in an employment situation, the bureau can provide short term funding for the first month of employment, or until you receive your second paycheck, whichever comes first.  The bureau is not able to cover personal care attendants on a long-term basis so it is very important to discuss options with your Counselor if you anticipate the need for long-term personal care assistance in your career.


 

Small Business Ventures

 

Do you want to run your own business and be your own boss?  The bureau offers two options if this career goal interests you.

 

First, through the Business Enterprise Program, you can enter into a partnership with the bureau to manage a food service, gift shop or newsstand operation in a government building.  The bureau has opportunities at locations around the state, some in large full service cafeterias with many employees and others in small, one-person operations.  All candidates enter into a training program and need to demonstrate the skills and abilities to become “entrepreneurs” before earning a license to operate a location.  The Business Enterprise Program offers promotional opportunities to managers, so every new location is first offered to people in the program with the most seniority before a new trainee can be considered.

 

There is no cost to you for entering the program and the bureau pays for all training.  Your start up inventory will be provided so that you will have everything you need to open the business, or take over an existing location after the current manager moves to another promotional operation.  Best of all, you get to keep all the profits from the location that you manage.  Of course, there are other responsibilities that go along with managing a Business Enterprise location.  You will also have to pay all taxes and cover the cost of all additional products and services needed in your business.  The initial inventory that you are given will be sold to customers quickly, and you will need to use the profits from these sales to buy more products.  If your operation is larger, you will also need to use some of the profit to pay the salaries of the staff that you hire.  And, if you decide to leave the business location, you will have to leave the location with the same level of inventory as when you took it over.  But, there are many positive aspects of business management through the bureau’s Business Enterprise Program.  A retirement plan and health insurance coverage is available and successful entrepreneurs can earn high salaries.  Ask your Counselor for more information.

 

A second option for self-employment is offered by the bureau.  For people who want to own a business and do not wish to enter into the bureau’s Business Enterprise Program, you can develop a business plan and submit it to the Vocational Rehabilitation Business Advisory Committee.

 

Business Plans are comprehensive documents that contain details about the products or services that you want to sell, the locations where you will sell them from, the customers who you anticipate will buy them and the profits that you anticipate making.  There are certain restrictions on the types of businesses and funding that can be provided by BESB.  For instance, BESB is not able to buy or lease a building for your business, or substantially alter an existing building.  BESB cannot purchase a franchise such as a fast food restaurant or convenience store. Businesses that sell alcohol, tobacco, firearms, pornographic material or drug paraphernalia are not eligible for funding from BESB.  The bureau will not purchase or lease motor vehicles, aircraft or boats for your business venture.  There are also restrictions on the length of time that bureau funding can be provided.  For example, initial inventory and rent can only be provided for up to the first six months of the operation.  Finally, clients submitting a Business Plan requesting funds for either a new or existing business are required to provide an equity contribution into the business before BESB funds will be committed. The size and composition of required equity contributions are based on the amount of funding that you are requesting. 

 

Once your plan is ready for review, the BESB Business Advisory Committee will receive and review your proposal. This committee is made up of entrepreneurs, small business owners, Business Enterprise Program Operators and professionals in the business workforce who are legally blind.  Two of the three members of the committee need to approve the plan before it can be funded. If they find the plan cannot be approved, then you will receive a written report telling you what is needed so that you can decide if you want to adjust your proposal and resubmit your plan.

 

Ask your Counselor for more information on the process if you are considering business ownership or improving on your current business to make it profitable. Your Counselor can provide you with a handbook that describes in greater detail the BESB policies pertaining to business ventures. He or she can also put you in contact with organizations across the state that offer advice, guidance and possible alternative funding to people who want to open or expand a business.

 

Becoming an entrepreneur can be a wonderfully rewarding experience.  If this type of challenge sounds exciting, then meet with your Counselor to begin the process.

 

 





Content Last Modified on 2/22/2013 10:26:08 AM