IMPORTANT UPDATE: On March 4, Frances Online will replace the Online Claim System. This means there will be temporary customer service interruptions starting as early as 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 27.  Phone and online support will also be unavailable Feb. 28 through March 1. Learn more at unemployment.oregon.gov/frances

Self-Employment Assistance

Do you have professional expertise or passion that could turn into a business? The Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program could be your opportunity to make it happen while you continue to receive unemployment insurance benefits.

Learn more at our weekly webinars

Do you have questions about requirements and applying for the program? You can learn more and ask questions at our weekly online webinar: Introduction to the Self-Employment Assistance Program. Use your computer or phone to join us on Zoom every Friday at 9 a.m.

Note: Webinars will be canceled on observed state holidays.

The webinars are only in English, see Need Help? to request interpretation.

Join us Fridays at 9 a.m.
Nine rowers propel a narrow boat along the Willamette River under the Ross Island Bridge in Portland.

What is the Self Employment Assistance (SEA) program?

The SEA program is for people who are receiving unemployment insurance benefits — and are likely to run out of those benefits — and are interested in starting their own business.

Through the SEA program, you can receive up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, without the work-search requirements that are typically required in order to receive benefits, so you can focus full time on your self-employment activities and building your business. You also keep the income you earn from your new business.

We have helped more than 1,500 Oregonians successfully start their own business.

How do I apply to the SEA program?

First, call the UI Special Programs Center at 503-947-1800 or 800-436-6191 to see if you are eligible.

Then, send us your SEA application and Business Feasibility Worksheet through the Contact Us form. You can also mail the completed worksheet to Oregon Employment Department, PO Box 14518, Salem, OR 97309. ​The worksheet will help you understand the business market. It can help determine whether there is enough customer demand for your business to succeed.

We will review your application and let you know if you meet the eligibility requirements. We will provide directions on what to do next.

What are the program requirements?

You must complete the Business Feasibility Worksheet and create a business plan. Once approved, you must record self-employment activities using the SEA Weekly Claim Form for each week that you claim benefits. Follow the instructions on the form to send it in.

Where can I get guidance?

Oregon's Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC) can provide business start-up counseling and advice. Experts will help you put together a business plan and feasibility study.

Contact the Small Business Development Center Network at 541-463-5250 or support@oregonsbdc.org to learn more about available guidance and services.

How does the SEA program help me start or expand my business?

The SEA program removes the requirement to search for a job while receiving unemployment insurance benefits. This gives you more time to focus on starting your own business and starting to earn income through it. Once you are making a profit from your business, you keep that income while still receiving your full weekly benefit payment.

Do I have to have my business plan completed before I am accepted to the SEA program?

No, we only need your SEA program application and Business Feasibility Worksheet at the time you apply. Your business plan is due 45 days after we accept your application.

What kinds of businesses are prohibited?

We approve applications for businesses that are legal in Oregon, appropriate for government sponsorship, and fit within their neighborhood. Some businesses that are legal in bordering states are not legal in Oregon. Examples of businesses that are not allowed in the SEA program include marijuana dispensaries, marijuana or cannabis growers, and “budtender” work.

What am I required to do after I am approved for the SEA program?

Within 45 days of acceptance into the SEA program, you must provide your Business Identification Number, Federal Employer Identification Number, and a business plan. The program approval notification will include the needed details, forms and links.

Additionally, instead of continuing to file regular weekly claims for unemployment insurance benefits, you will need to send us SEA weekly claim certifications. Follow the instructions on the form to send it in. Forms can be mailed or faxed to:

Mail

Oregon Employment Department

PO Box 14518

Salem, OR 97309

Fax

503-947-1833

Questions?

If you have questions, send a message through the Contact Us form.

How long will my SEA benefits last?

Your existing regular unemployment insurance claim determines your SEA benefits. Your SEA claim will expire when you reach your maximum benefit amount.

How can I check to see what my benefits balance is?

Call the UI Special Programs Center at 503-947-1800 or 800-436-6191 to check your remaining balance.