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White House launches economic summits to empower AANHPI communities

By Randall Yip, AsAmNews Executive Editor with additional reporting from Jake Chang

Xu Lin opened his restaurant Bubblefish in Philadelphia’s Chinatown 7 years ago. He financed it with money borrowed from family and friends.

“When people in the community start a business, they borrow from family members and friends and that’s just how they do it in the community,” Lin told AsAmNews. “There wasn’t a common knowledge of government grants or programs to help us.”

The Small Business Administration and the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders hope to change that.

The SBA launched an eight-city tour in Philadelphia Wednesday morning sharing resources with small businesses in the Asian community.

This initiative follows the Biden administration’s unveiling of the first-ever National Strategy to Advance Equity, Justice, and Opportunity for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) Communities on January 17. 

The series aims to empower underserved communities in partnership with federal agencies and local leaders.

The summits kicked off with an in-person event at Philadelphia City Hall, which hosted U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman.

“We are facing the challenges of racism and anti-AANHPI activity and so, we have really leaned in at the SBA to make sure that our programs are inclusive at the President’s direction. In fact, all agencies are asked by President to create equity plans to make sure that we’re including all of our great communities for his vision of building an economy from the bottom up and the middle,” said Guzman during a phone interview with AsAmNews.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only 2.8% of federal contracting dollars went to AA and NHPI businesses in 2020, despite 10% of small businesses in the U.S. being owned by AA and NHPI.

The SBA acknowledges language barriers often limit members of the AA and NHPI communities from applying for federal grants and programs.

It’s something Lin has seen firsthand.

“I asked someone from city hall about how to be a registered minority business.  The person I talked to didn’t have the knowledge. I’m somebody that speaks English and I’m having trouble getting information. Most of the shopowners are immigrants with fear of authorities in their home countries and limited English. They are less likely to reach out to officials for help. We’re on our own,” he said.

Guzman stressed to AsAmNews that the SBA offers brochures and assistance in 27 languages. She says her agency can not only assist small businesses in getting financing, but also help them with additional training so that they can “adopt tools and digital e-commerce”

Lin didn’t know that the Summit had taken place in his hometown and called the outreach disappointing.

“Connect us to resources. Bring knowledge that we don’t know,” he urged. “It’s not like there is an email that would connect us to the federal government, the Small business Administration. We have to rely on community organizations,” he said.

Guzman doesn’t disagree.

“We’ve really invested heavily trying to build trusted local voices to help connect our entrepreneurs where there are gaps. I think that if I could share anything about my travels and logistics with small businesses is that there’s such great hope and resilience and determination across America and especially those entrepreneurs who aren’t just fighting to realize that great ideal, but often giving back to the communities in special ways,” she said.

The next Summit will be held in Chicago on a date yet to be announced. Additional summits in other cities are pending.

You can find more information about programs offered by the SBA here.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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