Pandemic’s Toll on Southern California’s Asian American-Owned Businesses

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant portion of Asian American-owned businesses in Southern California had, by April 2021, experienced financial losses, closures and staff reductions, and many of them struggled to access local, state or federal aid, according to a new UCLA policy brief. The brief is based on data from a survey conducted during the first four months of 2021 by the Asian Business Association of Los Angeles, whose findings were published by the Asian Business Center, the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, directed by Research Professor Paul Ong, and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, directed by Urban Planning Professor Karen Umemoto. Researchers asked 400 Asian American business owners in Southern California about the impact of the pandemic. Businesses represented a variety of industries, including manufacturing, retail, transportation, professional services, restaurants, services and health care. Roughly 60% of respondents reported a large negative effect from the pandemic. “While some companies were able to minimize their losses by pivoting to online sales, owners who are older reported that they struggled to make that transition,” Ong said. “On the other hand, younger business owners said they faced eligibility barriers when they tried to access recovery funds that would help their companies survive.” The policy brief recommends that policymakers simplify the financial relief application process and work with community organizations to provide additional technical assistance for business owners. Three out of four of the businesses surveyed were immigrant-owned, and nearly half were owned by women. People of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese descent made up the largest portion of the survey. — Jessica Wolf

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