Impact of COVID-19 on AAPI Businesses

with Chiling Tong of the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship

According to a recent Federal Reserve survey, Asian-owned small businesses were more negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to all demographic groups.

Chiling Tong, President and CEO of the Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship, shares with host Tetiana Anderson the state of AAPI business in America today.

Posted on:

April 30, 2021

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: The COVID-19 pandemic has hit businesses all across the country hard, and it's created economic uncertainty. And according to a Federal Reserve survey, nearly 80% of Asian-owned businesses describe their financial condition as "fair" or "poor." That's more than any other race or ethnicity. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. The COVID-19 pandemic has put many AAPI businesses at risk and left scores of AAPI workers jobless. Joining me to talk about all of this is Chiling Tong. She is the president and the CEO of the National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship. And, Chiling, thanks for being here.

Tong: Well, thank you for your invitation.

Anderson: So, how important are AAPI businesses to this country when it comes to income generated, taxes paid? They're pretty significant, right?

Tong: Yes, absolutely. I'm always very proud to share with people the state of AAPI business in America. The AAPI community is America's fastest-growing ethnic group. AAPI business has made a significant contribution to American society with our strong economic output, productivity, and also job creation. AAPI-owned business has generated about $744 billion in income and they pay about $220 billion in taxes in 2019. And also, before the COVID-19, the purchasing power was expected to increase to $1.3 trillion by 2020. So, I feel AAPI small businesses are essential to communities. I include healthcare facility, restaurant, and also convenience stores.

Anderson: So, you talk about them being essential. And we know from a survey that you did also from Census Bureau information that there are nearly two million small businesses owned by Asians in this country and they provide about 3 1/2 million jobs to people. So, for those businesses, how easy has it been for them to access the kind of resources that they need to recover during these times?

Tong: Yes, I tell you, because the state of AAPI business in America is jeopardized, like any other minority business community. So, we have a -- right now, we have the most difficult getting back to work after being laid off. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost half of AAPIs, I would say probably 50% who are unemployed have been jobless for over six months, the longest time unemployed of any demographic. And we have done a national survey in partnership with U.S. Black Chamber and U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which measure how COVID-19 affect minority-owned business. And also, we have conduct about 120 webinars to share with our business community how they can get resources. Of course, you know, like SBA and Minority Business Development Agency, a U.S. Department of Commerce. Also, we have 65 affiliate AAPI Chamber throughout the United States. So, all the small businesses, they will be able to get resources from all those entities.

Anderson: So, we know that AAPI businesses have been hit hard, harder than any other ethnic group. But I'm wondering how much the anti-Asian backlash during the coronavirus pandemic has played into that.

Tong: You know, I think the difficult time for AAPI business is we are dealing with two illness. One is COVID, and other one is hate. We have vaccine for COVID, but we don't have vaccine for hate. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been over 3,000 self-reported instances of discrimination against AAPI nationwide, from verbal harassment to physical assault. 36% of the incidents happened in a place of business. And also, unfortunately, we continue to hear from AAPI small business around the country who live in fear of simply going to work. Some of them had to temporarily close their operation, and also they just kind of hire their own security, they are reducing hours of operations. They just cannot operate safely and need assistance right now.

Anderson: How important do you think it is for all communities who have been marginalized really to come together when it comes to addressing equity issues, access issues for the greater good?

Tong: Yes, absolutely. Our community is facing many challenges, like other minority business community -- access to capital, access to contracting opportunities, and technology difficulties. Especially for AAPI community, we have so many new immigrants, so they are facing language barriers. And now it's a safety issue. There is a kind of added stress of the hate, discrimination, and violence our AAPI business community are facing, too. We have been working closely with the U.S. Black Chamber, U.S. Hispanic Chamber, National LGBT Chamber, try to help the small business to recover. So, we have -- we are very fortunate. We have received a CARES Act grant from Minority Business Development Agency. We can provide small business technical assistance and capacity-building support to AAPI MBEs in response to COVID-19. And also there are so many activities throughout the AAPI community, like Stop AAPI Hate. And we want to also deliver a very positive message, is AAPI Strong. We really want to help AAPIs, you know, like other minority community. I tell you, yeah, we're just so grateful for people's support.

Anderson: Chiling, if people want to find out more about the organization, what's the website?

Tong: Our website is

Anderson: Chiling Tong, National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship member, thank you for being here.

Tong: Thank you for your invitation.

Anderson: And thanks to our viewers, as well, for watching. For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the country, log on to I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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