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Dec 11

Oregon’s Self Employment Assistance Program

When you are applying for Unemployment Insurance for the State of Oregon, if you are self employed you are eligible for the Self Employment Assistance Program, or SEA. This is a benefit limited to six months (whereas with regular Unemployment Insurance you apply for a certain number of jobs and your six month period might be extended indefinitely when funds are available if gainful employment is not attained). Although without the benefit of extension, the great thing about this program is that it rewards business owners for working 40 hours every week – the reality is that many of us work more than 40 on a regular basis because of poor time management, lack of boundaries, and the felt need to say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’ because every little bit of extra income could make or break a small business in the current month. Personally, I am excited to have to commit to working regular hours, I think this is great accountability and will help me get on track to setting productive habits for the new year and re-launch of my business.


The first step to apply for this program is to apply for and be accepted into the regular Unemployment Insurance benefit program. (see post: Applying for Unemployment Insurance in Oregon) For me this consisted of several hoops to jump, lengthy hold times with various staff members of varying competence, and a couple of visits to the Portland Metro Worksource Center. I received incorrect information from phone staff on multiple telephone calls, the lack of veracity was confirmed when I spoke with more experienced staff in subsequent conversation. No one in the main office seems to know anything about SEA; it’s considered a totally separate program and office.



Once you have been accepted into the Unemployment Insurance program, you are sent five to ten separate pieces of mail from the state, which will likely arrive on the same day. Forms that verify the amount of your benefit, your eligibility, and brochures about the program will all come under separate cover. You will also receive a folder of training calendars and job seeking handouts from the Worksource employee who does your in-person entrance interview. Importantly, fill out the Self Employment Questionnaire and send it back to the offices right away. This form asks for basic information about your business including:


– When did you begin this business?
– How much capital have you invested in your business?
– What were your gross earnings in self employment last week? Last month? Last year?
– How much time do you devote to this business daily?



Since they are two separate government programs, you need to call the SEA Office separately (1-800-436-6191 or 503-947-1800) and request an application for the SEA Program from the UI Training Programs Unit / Oregon Employment Department. This form is different from the Self-Employment Questionnaire mentioned above; the Self-Employment Questionnaire needs to be sent back immediately to the Unemployment Office but you have 30 days to complete your application to the SEA program which is considerably more involved (in the meantime you claim your benefits by applying to jobs every week and applying for the regular benefit). The only reason I know that you have 30 days to return the paperwork is that I asked; this information is not clear on any of the information I was provided. Someone really should streamline this process!



Self Employment Assistance Program Application CAT: 854
Asks for basic business information and licensing obtained. It’s basically a cover sheet for the rest of your application materials.

Business Feasibility Worksheet
form 96-12 (11-10) – State of Oregon – Employment Department – www.workinginoregon.org



I’ve typed this out for you if you’d like to get a head start on the questions while waiting for the application to arrive in the mail.









More information about the Self Employment Assistance Program:

  1. http://video.pbs.org/video/2164180090
  2. http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2011/09/oregon_program_getting_nationa.html
  3. http://www2.opb.org/thinkoutloud/shows/unemployed-self-employed/

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