In Chinatown, Immigrant Shopkeepers Fare the Worst [OP-ED]
In an encouraging sign, some Chinatown shops have started reopening after six weeks of Covid-19 lockdown.
The governor’s ban on non-essentials and public gatherings forced most businesses to the sidelines, but several restaurants offered takeout and three supermarkets stayed open. In a welcome sign, three back-to-back dessert places on Bayard Street returned to the fray – Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, Yi-Fang Tea and Sweet House. This week, they were joined by Yue Wong BBQ also on Bayard, Tokyo Mart, and Chinatown’s favorite fruit stand on the corner of Canal.
The ban on non-essential business has created confusion for many immigrant shopkeepers. Especially those who have no access to the internet or who had difficulty navigating the English-language application process for small business loans and grants offered by the stimulus package. Some owners sheltered at home were not even aware of these grants and loans due to a breakdown within the community in dessimating the information.
While some business associations may maintain a database of member shopkeeper information, most are not members and were left in the dark. One would hope moving forward, once the lockdown is lifted, a nonprofit or community based organization would populate a contact database of all Chinatown business names, addresses and owners to prepare for the next emergency.