COVID-19 has been striking the world with panic and rapid change. Now people are no longer only worrying about their own and the public’s health. On Mar. 16 Los Angeles County officially ordered for most public places deemed non-essential to be shut down, from restaurants and bars to movie theatres and even gyms. Cue the economic struggle for employees and employers alike.
Small businesses have already begun to suffer. Even before forced shut down, COVID-19 was driving business down significantly. Asian American businesses were some of the first to notice the quickly declining number of customers.
However, Asian-owned small businesses had been getting hit especially hard due to racist rhetoric brought by COVID-19. Some owners reported a 50% revenue fall since news of the virus had first surfaced. Since the virus was originally discovered in Hubei, Wuhan in China, people driven by fear let their previously closeted racism surface.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Asian Americans have been facing drastically increased harassment. There are numerous cases of race-fueled attacks happening on top of the overwhelming lack of support, caused by ignorant xenophpboic beliefs, for Asian-owned small businesses.
And of course, to make the ignorant feel justified, Trump has been continually referring to COVID-19 improperly as the “Chinese Virus.” Trump has refused to recognize and accept that attaching Chinese people to the virus will allow xenophobes to have an excuse to also attach it to them and harass them for it.
“It is very important that we protect our Asian American community… They are amazing people, and the spread of the virus is NOT their fault in any way shape or form,” tweeted Trump on Sunday.
Maybe if he had this mindset before telling the press that “it’s not racist at all,” other Americans wouldn’t have followed his lead and the harassment may have been slowed or even halted. And even after saying this and seeing the current treatment of Asian Americans, he still says “I don’t regret it.”
However, since the government ordered shutdown, xenophobia is no longer a main cause of emptied out businesses, and after adding fuel to the fire of the unjustified blaming of Asian American people, helping the businesses financially couldn’t have come soon enough.
Fortunately, a coronavirus relief bill was passed. The first coronavirus relief bill will provide $1 billion in loan subsidies for small businesses.The second, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, will help small businesses cope with paying their employees during sick leave.
A third, and much larger, stimulus bill is currently being negotiated, however democrats and republicans cannot reach a common ground, delaying its passage. This bill would help small businesses further through private bank loans, but much of the bill’s proposal’s are still being determined and negotiated.
While these will immensely help small business owners who have been forced to shut down, or lost so much business they had to let go of the majority of their staff, will this be enough to help them survive in the long run? Delaying reaching a decision on the bill will only lengthen the amount of time businesses will continue to suffer.
As coronavirus news floods and updates by the hour, small business owners will have stress following them, especially those targeted with blame.
Trump’s actions of signing into law these relief bills will be of help to small businesses, but will his ignorant rhetoric leave behind an long lasting negative stigma on Asian American small businesses? Whether or not they will be able to recover is a question only waiting until the virus is contained will answer.
The financial relief bills passed last week will offer the minimum relief needed right now during the shutdown. But staying away from racially profiling a virus should have been the first place the president started when trying to avoid hurting people and businesses.