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

by | Mar 25, 2020

Updated 5.29.20

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 NEworks.nebraska.gov.

13 Weeks of Additional Unemployment Benefits Now Available

Nebraska workers who have exhausted their state unemployment insurance benefits can apply for an extension of benefits through the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program (PEUC). PEUC provides up to 13 weeks of additional assistance for people who exhausted their 26 weeks of state unemployment insurance benefits on or after July 6, 2019. The benefit is available for weeks ending Saturdays from April 4 to Dec. 26, 2020. More info and FAQ about the CARES Act programs: dol.nebraska.gov/covid19.

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 http://neworks.nebraska.gov/

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 NEworks.nebraska.gov to file a claim.

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.

What about individuals who work for a child care program operated by their church? Many states exclude faith-based organizations from their unemployment programs. Will they receive unemployment benefits?

Individuals typically excluded from state unemployment compensation programs will be covered by the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (if related to COVID-19 impact). They will also receive the weekly $600 supplement through July 31, 2020. Additional guidance is expected to be forthcoming from the Department of Labor related to faith-based organizations, but we expect individuals to qualify for the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Source: Alliance for Early Success StateFedConnect Call 4.3.20

Are family child care providers who remain open eligible for partial unemployment?

If family child care providers who are currently open have had a reduction in income, they should be encouraged to apply for unemployment. Even if they qualify for only a small amount of assistance, they will also receive the $600 per week supplement through July 31, 2020. Source: Alliance for Early Success StateFedConnect Call 4.3.20

Can you get unemployment benefits if your family child care home is open but no children are coming? So, technically, they are not unemployed because they are open?

A self-employed individual with substantial loss of business income will likely qualify for the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (plus the $600 weekly supplement). Source: Alliance for Early Success StateFedConnect Call 4.3.20

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 Digest.

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 NEworks.nebraska.gov. 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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