Report: Asian American NYC businesses were hit the hardest, hit the earliest, and helped the least


| Photo via Asian American Federation Report

NEW YORK – After almost 15 months, New York City is slated for a full re-opening on July 1st. This should be a welcome relief to Asian American small businesses.

Asian Americans are over 16 percent of the 1.3 million population in the City and are growing faster than all other demographic groups. Their small businesses made up 20 percent of the City’s businesses before the pandemic. They were also the fastest-growing segment of small businesses.

The Asian American Federation (AAF) has released its report, Small Business, Big Losses: The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Asian Small Business. The report highlights the devastating economic impact of the pandemic on Asian small businesses and challenges to their recovery.

According to the report, many Asian-owned small businesses may not survive as they continue to be marginalized and neglected. AAF’s survey shows that the economic impact of the COVID crisis was a disaster for Asian-owned small businesses in 2020.

The small business communities suffered from revenue loss to mounting rent and debt obligations, and even business closures. With recovery programs not being configured to meet their unique needs and lack of timely language access, even applying for assistance was a major hurdle, hindering their recovery and jeopardizing their survival. Meanwhile, fear of being a target of rising anti-Asian sentiment pervades the community, adding to a list of mounting challenges.

AAF’s key findings are as follows:

  • The pandemic-related shutdown was a blow to New York’s Asian American small businesses, with 55 percent of businesses losing 75 percent or more in revenue.
  • Two in three Asian small business owners did not receive COVID-19 relief assistance in their language. Assistance programs failed Asian American small businesses by not considering language barriers, the bureaucracy of the application process, and the type of aid offered.
  • Anti-Asian bias has had a disproportionate impact on Asian-owned small businesses. Three out of five business owners we surveyed were worried about anti-Asian bias or hate crimes affecting them or their staff.

The survey highlights the key needs of the Asian American small business community in the wake of the economic losses and devastation caused by the pandemic. AAF interviewed Asian American small business owners in their languages to gather real-life experiences. Their answers call attention to existing systemic issues faced by Asian small business owners, mainly immigrants, magnified by the COVID crisis.

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