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Arlene Soto

Q: I just lost my job and I’m headed to the unemployment office. Do I have options besides looking for another job?

A: Fortunately, in Oregon and a few other states, there is an option called the Self Employment Assistance Program (SEAP). To qualify individuals must meet certain Worksource Oregon criteria:

  • Be eligible for and receiving unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Be unlikely to return to your previous employment and not a member in good standing with a closed shop union.
  • Have been identified as likely to exhaust unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Have a viable business idea.
  • Be willing to work full time to develop your business.
  • Have or be able to obtain the financial backing needed to start and sustain the business until it becomes self-supporting, and
  • If the business requires an occupational license (state license), you must already have that license at the time of your SEA application

More information about the program and accessing the benefits is available at or by calling 503-947-1800.

Applications for the SEA program are available at your local Worksource Oregon center. Since not all unemployment claimants are eligible, Claimant Reemployment Specialists are available to advise applicants on their options. Once accepted into the SEA program you are required to submit a written business plan. Business planning assistance is available through the Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC) visit to find office nearest you. Starting a business can be a daunting task. SBDC advisors can also assist with market research, financing strategies, business licensing requirements and help new business owners to access all the resources available to businesses.

SEAP participants do not have to continue searching for employment while in the program however, they must attest that they are working at least 40 hours per week getting their business started. Money earned from a business is not deducted from an unemployment check. It’s important to note, the SEA program participants are not eligible for any extended unemployment benefits so unemployment advisors encourage SEA claimants to work hard towards creating a business revenue stream that can support not only business activities but a pay check for the owner.

The SEA program has helped many unemployed individuals create viable businesses that not only provide them a job but often jobs for others.

The SBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, the Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Arlene M. Soto has been the Director of the Southwestern Small Business Development Center since July 2007. To ask a question call 541-888-7001, e-mail, or write 1988 Newmark Ave., Coos Bay, OR 97420. Additional help is available at the OSBDCN Web page