Seattle’s Chinatown-International District is a dense community with over 350 small businesses within one-quarter square mile. During the pandemic, many businesses have been hit hard, and the blow to Asian American and Pacific Islander-owned businesses has been compounded due to anti-Asian bias.
“We were seeing a huge decrease in foot traffic in Chinatown-International District as early as January 2020, even before the first official U.S. cases of COVID,” said An Huynh, community development manager for SCIDpda, the Seattle Chinatown-International District Preservation and Development Authority. Then came evidence of anti-Asian racism exacerbated by fears related to the virus. “Our neighborhood of Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Filipino American businesses and residents definitely noticed this effect,” An Huynh said.
As racism and harassment toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders began to rise during the COVID-19 crisis, organizations have expanded their efforts to support these communities. In 2021, Kaiser Permanente joined with Asian Americans Advancing Justice— AAJC to establish the Stop Anti-Asian Hate and Violence Initiative, distributing $3.6 million to Asian American and Pacific Islander community-based organizations nationwide. The grants are part of a larger $5.4 million effort to support Asian-led advocacy work, prevent further racist acts, and promote healing. Additional grantmaking targeted to support low-income entrepreneurs in communities of color has bolstered Asian-owned businesses.
“Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in many of the markets we serve have struggled with racism and loss of business since the pandemic. As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Kaiser Permanente stands in solidarity with communities and in support of Asian-owned businesses,” said Stephanie Ledesma, interim senior vice president for community health at Kaiser Permanente.
A grant from National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders and Kaiser Permanente enabled SCIDpda to set up and hire a small-business relief team to help small businesses apply for COVID-19 relief grants.
Jamie Lee, director of community initiatives for SCIDpda, estimates that the team’s technical assistance and translation work helped over 200 businesses including restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and salons. The businesses raised close to $1 million in relief grants so they could continue operating and paying their employees.
To double down on the support for Asian-owned small businesses and AAPI neighborhoods in the recovery from the economic impacts of COVID-19, Kaiser Permanente established a partnership with National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, or CAPACD, in July 2021. Through this partnership, National CAPACD launched the Asian American and Pacific Islander Small-Business Development Program, supporting local community-based organizations with their small-business programming.
Asian Counseling and Referral Service — a social services agency that serves Asians and Pacific Islanders, including immigrants and refugees in Washington — received a Stop Anti-Hate and Violence Initiative grant, which they used to expand group counseling to clients and to support mental health staff members experiencing the impact and trauma from COVID-19 and anti-Asian racism.
Asian Counseling and Referral Services regranted funds to Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of Washington, a network of community-based organizations dedicated to racial and economic justice, to carry out anti-Asian violence activities. In 2021, the coalition held an anti-Asian hate bystander intervention training for 60 participants across its 7 chapters. Its Spokane chapter organized community listening sessions to find out what issues were important to their Asian advocacy efforts.
“Being able to invest in Asian-led organizing all around the state is a huge investment in stopping anti-Asian violence,” said Shomya Tripathy, director of policy and civic engagement for Asian Counseling and Referral Services.