Nebraskans Share Personal Stories of COVID's Devastating Economic Impact

June 12, 2020, 6:45 a.m. ·

From top left, clockwise: Allen Faison, Raquel Gauna, Bryon Hill, Carlos Barreda. (Provided)

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More than 100,000 Nebraskans applied for unemployment benefits since the economy shut down. Many waited a month or more to receive a check because of the record-breaking number of applicants.

And a survey from the University of Nebraska at Omaha found 87% of businesses were negatively impacted by the pandemic, and 16% feared going out of business.

As these Nebraskans explain, the economic impact is severe.

Bryon Hill

I am a freelance marketing consultant and small business owner from Omaha, Nebraska. Things slowed down, some may say fell off a cliff and sports came to a screeching halt. We had to adjust. So we had to figure out ways to deliver some of our training online and so I went and, you know, kind of redesigned a couple of things that we were doing. And really recreated a platform to deliver online training to our clients, so that they can do some of the workouts at home, you know, basically launching a new product so I had to pivot real quick and figure out how the best way to get this entire thing launched.

Raquel Gauna

I live in Plattsmouth, Nebraska. In the beginning of March my one year old daughter got really sick. And at the end of the week she had a seizure at childcare, so I picked her up and I took her to the ER. The physician at the ER said it was maybe COVID, maybe not COVID. They just did not have enough supplies there to test her, so just to take her home, keep an eye on her at home.

I let my employer know that my daughter was sick. My partner and I took the next two weeks rotating shifts, keeping an eye on her and making sure that she was okay. I told my employer that maybe it was COVID, I didn't know. I asked them about the two weeks pay, wanting to know if I was going to get paid for it. I did not get my two weeks full pay and shortly after that I was let go.

Allen Faison

I am 40 year old business owner. I own a small boot camp gym, so I had to reduce my class sizes to about half of what my normal sessions run. I have quite a few members that decided to either freeze their accounts or to cancel. If you're not bringing home money it's gonna it makes it difficult to pay bills to provide for your children, things like that. So that made things pretty rough.

I did get creative and had some online training. I just came up with some different ideas. I believe that you don't run out of resources, you run out of resourcefulness. So I did have to become a little more resourceful than I normally am.

I think the biggest impact was not getting moments back. There's a couple of times where I went to go visit my parents, my parents didn't want to hug me. I don't want to hug them. We're gonna have a mask on, not interacting with each other like family should you don't get those moments back.

Angeli Thakker, D.D.S.

Angeli Thakker, D.D.S

Bellevue Pediatric Dentistry. Due to the long closure, we had to make the difficult decision to furlough our employees. As a business owner, I was trying to make sense of the PPP loan and the loan application process. The dentist in me was continuously trying to keep up with ever changing guidelines and protocols.

When we came back, instead of our patients coming into a waiting room with toys, books, and video games, they had to wait in cars. Our front desk staff are behind fortresses of sneeze guards. We have a whole new level of personal protection. I sometimes feel we look like robots. Luckily for us, kids have great imagination and resilience, and none of this has phased them.

Carlos Barreda

I drive Uber and Lyft in Lincoln, Nebraska. A couple of passenger stories that stay with me are, a non-English speaking undocumented alien from El Salvador. She was working cleaning houses but when the pandemic started, most of her work dried up. Of course there was no stimulus check for her or unemployment.

Neither she lost her children had insurance. I told her that the state would provide insurance for her kids at no risk to her or her kids. But she was so afraid of being deported that she didn't want to take advantage of any of the programs that could be available for her.

This story is part of a special episode of Speaking of Nebraska that features the stories of Nebraskans impacted by COVID-19. The episode also includes a discussion about recent protests in Nebraska and across the world concerning police violence and systemic racism. Watch the full program below: