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Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP) | Eligibility, Benefit & How to Apply ?

Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP)

What is Self-Employment Assistance Program ?

The Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP) is designed to support and encourage unemployed workers to create their own jobs by starting their own small businesses. States pay self-employment benefits instead of regular unemployment insurance benefits, under this program to help unemployed entrepreneurs while they are becoming self-employed and setting up businesses.

The state legislature authorized the Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP) in 2007. The main objective of this program is to help unemployed persons. Individuals are likely to be out of unemployment benefits before they can find work so that they can create new jobs and business opportunities.

Creating two out of every three new jobs in America because small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Participation in the Self-Employment Assistance Program is voluntary both on the part of the unemployed person and the state. The SBA and USDOL want to support and encourage all states to offer SEAPs as a way to create jobs and promote entrepreneurship.

The Self-Employment Assistance Program helps people who meet certain requirements and are out of work to start their own businesses, while collecting unemployment insurance benefits. If you qualify for SEAP and dream of starting your own business, then you can get the necessary financial support while working on that dream, with that help you can pay your bills.

Understanding Self-Employment Assistance Program

New jobs and business opportunities are created for other workers through SEAP. SEAP provides a valuable option for those eligible who want to run their own business. Under this program, you get an opportunity to earn income through traditional employment. By participating in the Self-Employment Assistance Program, you can create a job in a business that stimulates the local economy and interests you. Each new business provides jobs for you and for other people.

SEAP is a unique opportunity for you to receive vocational counseling and enter self-employment entrepreneurial training while collecting unemployment benefits. If you enroll in an approved training program and qualify, you do not need to look for other work while at SEAP.

Purpose of SEAP

  • Self-employment assistance provides quick re-employment opportunities to displaced workers.
  • This program is designed to enable and encourage unemployed workers to create their own jobs by starting their own small businesses.
  • Under SEAP, states pay an SEA allowance instead of regular unemployment insurance benefits to help unemployed workers while they are becoming self-employed and setting up businesses.
  • Participants are getting their business off the ground yet they get weekly allowances.

Key Features of Self-Employment Assistance Program

  • You must obtain a written approval in SEAP before starting your own business while collecting profits.
  • Opportunities for you to build a network of support as you start your business.
  • Keep you on the road to success with training and mentorship.
  • Money earned from your business is not deducted from the individual's unemployment insurance benefits.
  • The person does not need to look for a job while you work on your business.
  • You can work full time at your new business while you are collecting unemployment insurance benefits.
  • The Self-Employment Assistance Program is a voluntary program for the states and, to date, there are active self-employment assistance programs in Mississippi, Delaware, New York, New Hampshire, and Oregon. (The website of the State Workforce Agency for these states can be found at

Eligibility for SEAP

To receive the benefits of the Self-Employment Assistance Program, the individual must be eligible to receive regular unemployment insurance under state law. Individuals who are identified (through the state's profiling system) as likely to end regular unemployment benefits and who have been permanently removed from their previous jobs are eligible to participate in the program. 

Individuals who have been permanently laid off from their previous jobs and are identified (through a State's profiling system) as likely to exhaust regular unemployment benefits are eligible to participate in the program. Individuals engaged in self-employment activities full time may still be eligible. (Including business consulting, entrepreneurial training and technical support)

Who is Eligible to Apply ?

To apply for the Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP), a person must meet the following requirements :
  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must be eligible to receive at least 13 or more weeks of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits
  • The person must be a recipient of an invitation letter from the State Department of Labor, or be classified (determined through profile scores) as a displaced worker.
  • The individual must be new to the SEAP program. (Not approved for SEAP in the past)
Your proposed business must also meet the following five basic criteria for SEAP approval :
  • Must locate your proposed business in the state
  • The business must be ready with a clear business idea
  • Must be willing to work full time to start your business
  • You cannot previously operate or own a business of a similar nature.
  • You have to plan to be an active owner of your business, you cannot plan to be a silent participant in a business partnership.
For more information about program eligibility, see the Eligibility for Self-Employment Assistance Program Fact Sheet.

Self-Employment Assistance Program Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP), you must meet the following requirements :
  • You must qualify for regular unemployment benefits.
  • You must enroll in a training program approved by the Commissioner of Employment Security.
  • You will need to be recognized as likely to be out of benefits or be eligible for commissioner-approved training (CAT).
SEAP does not pay tuition, books or school-related fees. This program only pays the regular unemployment-benefit amount every week.

Benefits of Self-Employment Assistance Program

SEA allowances are weekly amounts similar to the employee's regular unemployment insurance benefits. Participants work full-time to start their own business instead of looking for paid jobs.

Approved Training Program

All approved self-employment training programs include the following:
  • entrepreneur training
  • business consulting
  • technical support
  • Requirements to become self-employed and engage in activities related to setting up a business.

Retaining Unemployment Benefits During Training

To maintain your eligibility for unemployment benefits, you must meet the following requirements :
  • You are enrolled in a full-time training program.
  • You make satisfactory progress in the program.
  • If you suspend training, reduce enrollment from full-time or stop training, notify the Department of Employment Security.
If you do not meet these requirements, you may also have to pay for the benefits you received.

How to Apply for Self-Employment Assistance Program (SEAP) ?

Filing A Claim :

You should contact the state unemployment insurance agency immediately after becoming unemployed. When you file your claim, you should ask if your state operates a self-employment assistance program.

Click here for more Unemployment Fact Sheets

Application Process for SEAP

If you want to apply for Self-Employment Assistance Program, you have to :
  • Determine your eligibility and information about the Self-Employment Assistance Program.
  • Download the Self-Employment Assistance Program application and complete this application or select this option from your local worksource office.
  • Provide your name, the type of business you want to do, Social Security number and verification of your regular progress in the program.
  • Send the completed application for signature to
  • Submit applications directly to the Department of Employment Security
  • Inform WVC's Center for Entrepreneurship if you are approved
  • To see if you are eligible for the program, check with a SEAP approved provider. In order to participate in their training programs, some providers have other requirements that you must meet. Some training programs are only available to low-income individuals; see the training-provider website for other eligibility requirements.
  • Complete the Training Provider and Sign Program Provider Certification section on the application.
  • Email the completed form to to complete the Approved Provider and Sign Program Provider Certification section on the application.
  • The form will be emailed back to you and you can submit the completed application by email to, or mail your completed application to :
Employment Security Department
Attn: Training Benefits/SEAP Unit
PO Box 9046
Olympia, WA 98507-9046

What happens if a completed participant application is submitted to ESD ?

Applications should be submitted to the Training Benefits Unit for review. They write a formal decision to reject or approve SEAP and mail it to the applicant. If approved, the participant also receives a training advisory letter that explains their responsibilities while on the program.

Note : Applications submitted before one quarter (three months) from the start date of the reported program will be rejected.

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