U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today announced that Oregon has received $332,576 in federal grant funding to help expand the state's efforts to give aspiring entrepreneurs the option of using unemployment insurance money to start their own businesses.
"Self-employment assistance is an innovative and cost-effective way to help smart, entrepreneurial people not only find work but create jobs for others," Wyden said. "This funding will help Oregon improve and expand its program, and help our economy by creating new jobs as more start-ups launch and grow."
The grant from the U.S. Department of Labor will help expand Oregon's successful Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEA). Participants in voluntary SEA programs are provided with financial assistance equal to their Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits while they receive important entrepreneurial training and access to resources to help launch their own businesses. In order to allow participants to devote full-time attention to creating new businesses that have the potential to create additional jobs, state work search requirements are waived.
Oregon plans to use the funding to implement intensive training and one-on-one counseling to assist potential entrepreneurs in starting their own businesses and to improve customer service through the expanded use of the internet, social media and interactive websites.
"Oregon has been on the forefront of expanding opportunities for its unemployed to become successful entrepreneurs," said Eric Seleznow, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training. "The funding announced today will help aspiring business owners access the resources, information and training they need to get a business off the ground."
Funding for this initiative is part of a series of innovative reforms to the federal UI program made possible through the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. The grant includes $265,850 for the improved administration of their SEA program and $66,726 for promotion and enrollment activities.
The program connects UI recipients who have proven to be good candidates for self-employment and allows them to collect their unemployment benefits as they work to build credible businesses. Participants must complete both a written business plan and a market feasibility study. The program operates as a collaborative effort between the Oregon Employment Department, and the Small Business Development Center Network (SBDC).
Wyden has long been a champion of self-employment assistance programs, and helped push the provision that established the program two decades ago. Last year, Wyden successfully secured $35 million in funding for the creation or improvement of state SEA programs.
Five states -- Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon -- already have successful SEA programs in place. According to a Department of Labor study of state SEA programs, participants were 19 times more likely than eligible non-participants to be self-employed. In states where SEA programs are active, hundreds of businesses and new jobs have been created as a result. In Oregon, the estimated annual payroll from businesses started through the SEA program is $10.5 million, and successful start-ups have created an average of 3.12 new jobs.