New surge in COVID-19 cases threatens the livelihood of Nebraska business owner

Veteran entrepreneur Roxanne Huggins has owned the Comstock Premier Lodge in Sargent, Nebraska since 2009. Working with her husband Mitch and one other employee, they have managed to expand their business from a large farm to a year-round bed & breakfast hunting lodge and ranch. 

Roxanne explains, “We’ve worked hard for 11 years to get to where we are today. Our goal is to show our clients and guests that there is more to life than the daily grind of emails, phone calls and social media. This is a truly rewarding business that my husband and I greatly enjoy.”  

But when the pandemic became widespread in their area, Roxanne and Mitch saw an avalanche of cancellations that threatened their very livelihood. The governor suspended all hunting permits for non-residents in March, and as they rely heavily on tourism, this hurt their bottom line. 

Roxanne and Mitch sought relief funding from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which helped them cover the costs of feeding animals, high insurance premiums and their  mortgage. Though she initially encountered issues with her PPP application and only received a small amount of EIDL, Roxanne says her business is now in a much better position than when the pandemic first erupted. 

She shares, “You have to think outside the box and be creative when you live, work and own a business in a small town. But you can make it happen in rural America. The support from the community is incomparable, and they will not allow you to scratch and scrape by.”

Roxanne has seen an increase in bookings over the last few months, now that customers are feeling more comfortable with doing outdoor activities again. But this could all change if the state of Nebraska re-implements stay-at-home or public health orders. With increased cases of coronavirus rapidly spreading across the nation, this could be her reality any day now. 

While the future still remains so uncertain, Roxanne advises her fellow business owners, “Don't lose focus and stay positive no matter what it takes. Make the most of what you have and you will go far!”

Small Business Majority is sharing stories like Roxanne Huggins’ to educate policymakers about what small business owners need in order to survive this crisis. Help us spread the word that policymakers need to do more to support business owners in order for our economy to recover by sharing your story or signing our letter to Congress to ask for long-term relief.

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