FAQ: Unemployment Benefits for Early Childhood Professionals during COVID-19

Updated 4.3.20

COVID-19 has put a profound strain on Nebraska's early childhood and child care professionals. We've compiled the latest information on state and federal unemployment insurance benefits to help early childhood professionals protect their financial security during this national crisis. 

During COVID-19, Governor Pete Ricketts issued an Executive Order to loosen unemployment insurance eligibility requirements. The work search requirement and unpaid waiting week have been waived. File a claim at

Frequently Asked Questions

If I am self-employed or own an early childhood business, am I eligible for employment insurance benefits?

Typically self-employed business owners are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. However, this depends on how your business is organized and if you are classified as a liable employer. A liable employer is an individual or type of organization including any partnership, association, trust, estate, corporation, limited liability company or governmental agency that employs people and meets the coverage provisions of the Nebraska Employment Security Law. Even as the only employee of your business, you may still be eligible for benefits if you have been making unemployment insurance tax payments under an Unemployment Insurance Account Number issued by the Nebraska Department of Labor. 

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), eligibility is expanded to provide unemployment compensation to workers who are not normally eligible for benefits, as long as their unemployment was connected to the COVID-19 pandemic as determined by the State of Nebraska and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, “gig economy” employees and individuals who have experienced an inablility to work due to the pandemic may receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance based on their recent earnings and may also receive the $600 a week Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) supplement on top of that benefit.

Individuals can apply for these temporary new federal benefits at

To proceed through to the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program process, an applicant will first be denied by the State of Nebraska’s standard unemployment program.  

Watch the video below from the Nebraska Department of Labor to learn more about the application process.

Am I unemployed?

You are considered unemployed in any week you do not work and any week for which wages are not payable to you. You may also be considered unemployed if you work less than full time and your gross weekly wages are less than your determined weekly benefit amount.

What if I am receiving sick leave, vacation leave or other paid benefits while I am off work?

If you are receiving paid leave, it will be considered wages. If wages are more than your weekly benefit amount, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits that week.

How do I apply?

Go to to file a claim. It may take up to 21 days to process.

If my early childhood employer is temporarily closed, am I considered unemployed?

Early childhood program employees, including child care workers, who have been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic are immediately eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Does my community offer direct benefits for early childhood professionals or business owners?

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation has compiled a list of COVID-19 resources for children and families. In addition, check out the Daily Digest, updated at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Best Practices

  • To be considered for financial unemployment relief through the CARES Act, you must apply for unemployment benefits through the State of Nebraska. Even if your initial application is denied on the state level, you will be placed in the pool to be considered for federal COVID-19 benefits.
  • Apply online at Due to overwhelming demand, there are long wait times by phone. The fastest way to apply is online.
  • Processing of your application may take up to 21 days.


We'll continue to keep this page updated with business resources as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.

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