Nancy Yu has been a staple in San Francisco’s Chinatown for greater than twenty years. Her retailer, Asiastar Fantasy, sells souvenirs, presents and cultural gadgets like crimson envelopes for Lunar New 12 months. Whereas she’s weathered many challenges through the years, she’s by no means seen something fairly like 2020.
“Final 12 months was a really troublesome time — not only for us in Chinatown, however the entire metropolis, the entire world,” Yu stated.
Her gross sales are down 80% as a result of pandemic. However for the final a number of months, Yu has been opening her retailer for a number of hours a day to be current for the group, at the same time as enterprise stays low.
“We need to ship a message to folks and in the end say ‘Preserve Chinatown open, we welcome you,'” she stated. “I believe it is vital that we keep open. We need to give folks and different retailers encouragement.”
A small enterprise proprietor in Chinatown, San Francisco
The neighborhood has seen a downturn because of a scarcity of tourism not solely in Chinatown, however the Bay Space at massive. Additionally, extra broadly, analysis from Robert Fairlie, an economics professor on the College of California, Santa Cruz exhibits Asian-owned companies nationwide have been essentially the most negatively impacted of all demographic teams by final 12 months’s pandemic. The variety of working enterprise house owners fell by 20% from February to December, in keeping with his research.
The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce says the ZIP code that homes most of Chinatown noticed 75% of its storefronts grow to be nonoperational sooner or later final 12 months. The identical ZIP code additionally consists of the Monetary District, which has been equally hard-hit because of folks working from dwelling. This compares with town common, the place 54% of all storefronts have been nonoperational sooner or later in time in 2020.
“Covid-19 had a big impact on tourism, which represents a significant portion of San Francisco’s revenue — 25.8 million guests come to San Francisco [annually],” stated Rodney Fong, president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “It is painful if you see a few of these legacy companies shut. They’re pillars of our group.”
Extra entry to assist
The newest Paycheck Safety Program information from the Small Enterprise Administration by means of the top of February present Asian-owned companies trailing different demographic teams when it comes to the variety of loans accepted. Greater than 70,000 loans have been made to Asian-owned companies for a complete of $3.9 billion in 2021.
Filling out the demographic questions is voluntary and because of this, incomplete. General 2.1 million loans have been made for $156 billion in 2021, with greater than $100 billion in assist remaining in this system, which ends March 31.
A road scene in Chinatown, San Francisco
Final week the Biden administration introduced modifications to the PPP to make sure smaller and minority-owned companies have been capable of pretty entry funding. There’s at present a two-week window ongoing for companies with 20 or fewer workers to solely apply for assist.
As well as, there will likely be modifications to how a lot funding the self-employed and sole proprietors can entry, which is vital because the administration initiatives 70% of such companies are owned by ladies and minorities. As well as, there will likely be $1 billion put aside for sole proprietors in low and moderate-income areas.
Different modifications embody permitting these with non-fraud-related prior felony arrests or convictions, those that are delinquent on federal pupil loans and authorized U.S. residents who usually are not residents, like inexperienced card holders, to be eligible for PPP assist.
Chinatown, San Francisco
Minority-owned companies usually tend to be non-employer corporations and advocates say lenders might have been much less incentivized to make smaller loans to those smaller companies below the PPP as written final 12 months. Smaller corporations additionally do not at all times have the established banking connections or manpower to use for assist, a divide exacerbated through the pandemic, the San Francisco Chamber’s Fong stated.
“The pandemic has proven the digital divide in individuals who have entry and have the ability set to use for PPP, which isn’t a simple factor to do, and people who perhaps bought omitted,” he stated, including that continued modifications to the PPP like these newly enacted by the administration will assist to raised attain extra house owners. “Giving everybody that equal entry, equal alternative, is vital.”
When Yu utilized for a PPP mortgage final 12 months, she was initally turned away by an area financial institution, however ultimately acquired one. She is now ready on a second-draw mortgage. Individually, an area grant she acquired has helped along with her hire.
Past the pandemic’s impacts on enterprise, the Asian-American group at massive is grappling with one other painful risk — an uptick in violence and racism against the Asian population over the last year.
Between March 19 and Dec. 31, Stop AAPI Hate, an organization tracking anti-Asian incidents, found more than 2,800 accounts of racism and discrimination targeting Asian Americans across the U.S., including more than 100 against the elderly.
Yu said the threat weighs on her.
“We want to let people know that we are here for peace, we are here for prosperity and for the American dream. We have the same dream. That’s why we came to America,” she said.
Despite the challenges 2020 presented, Yu is moving ahead. She plans to open a second location in Chinatown in the year to come, selling boba tea.
—CNBC’s Betsy Spring contributed to this report.