Survival of AAPI-owned businesses depends on health of Los Angeles communities

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author’s and does not necessarily represent NextShark’s views.

The emergence of the recent Omicron variant demonstrates that the pandemic is not over, and few know this disheartening fact better than our Asian American small business community. Over the past year and a half, I have witnessed the devastating effects of the pandemic on this community in Los Angeles. What were once bustling areas of our beloved Chinatown, and beyond, are now quiet streets, empty restaurants, and closed doors.

More than 50% of AAPI-owned businesses surveyed by the Asian Business Association of Los Angeles (ABA) and UCLA’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge had to close at some point during the pandemic. Additionally, 60% reported the pandemic had a significant negative impact on their business.

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It comes down to two factors that will determine our success in beating the pandemic and ensuring these AAPI-owned businesses can return and survive: hope and health.

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, more than 6.3 million LA County residents are fully vaccinated — 72% of the population. Still, our small business communities — and our AAPI-owned small businesses in particular — continue to face language challenges, difficulty accessing government aid, competition for workers and racial bias. Resources in multiple languages exist, but many still don’t know how to access them.

While many other communities are already discussing economic recovery in California, we must not forget the importance and unique challenges of our Asian-owned businesses in this endeavor. Together, we share in our hope to return to normalcy, to visit our loved ones without concern and to see our small businesses thrive. The other half of that equation — our collective health — is something we must prioritize, and vaccinations are the answer.

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Ariel Fan, CEO of GreenWealth Energy, based in Los Angeles, continues to face the impacts of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The pandemic impacted her business’ Electric Vehicle (EV) charger construction with staff labor shortages, material delays, and permitting and utility approvals.

“We had customers pull out of contracts they had signed with us because they did not know if their business would survive. As the pandemic continues, we hope to encourage and support small business owners to keep fighting the fight, and keep pushing on,” said Fan. “Vaccinated employees and community members will give businesses greater confidence to operate normally sooner. Vaccines are the rising tide that lift all boats in the California economy, as we have already seen since April.”

Linda Nguyen, COO of Soupply, which is headquartered in Westminster, experienced pandemic-caused supply delays and was forced to adjust business operations accordingly.

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“A quick economic recovery will help us get back to an in-person work environment for greater team collaborative efforts where ideas and task delegation flow more seamlessly.

No matter how much financial aid is offered or how hopeful Fan and Nguyen remain, getting their businesses back on their feet relies heavily on the health of our Los Angeles communities. Our small businesses are fighting for survival. To fight alongside them, the Asian Business Association remains committed to encouraging eligible individuals to get vaccinated. Children aged 5-17 are eligible for vaccinations, and boosters are available for all aged 16 and up. By prioritizing our health, we also prioritize the success and livelihood of our local businesses. Conversations about vaccinations can be difficult, but they are necessary if we hope to return our community, city, state and nation to a healthy, thriving place to live. Since September, all of the ABA in-person programs and functions require attendees to be fully vaccinated. Since March 2020, we have gone through difficult days together and shared the tragedy of immense loss. We must commit to reaching better days in the same way — together. Let’s take care of our businesses, ourselves and our neighbors. Answers are available to your vaccine questions with resources accessible in many languages.

Visit www.VaccinateALL58.com. To schedule your appointment to get vaccinated or find a walk-in clinic today, visit myturn.ca.gov or call (833) 422-4255 for support in more than 250 languages, including Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

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Dennis Huang is the Executive Director and CEO of the Asian Business Association of Los Angeles, a membership-based organization, and a partner of the California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce.

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