March 3, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Queens Representative Grace Meng introduced legislation Friday that would assist small businesses harmed by fears of the coronavirus outbreak.
The bill, also sponsored by New York Rep. Nydia Velázquez and California Rep. Judy Chu, would allow small businesses economically burdened by the outbreak and resulting hysteria to access Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million.
The loans — which would be interest-free — would cover operating expenses and other costs that would otherwise have been met if it weren’t for the virus’ spread.
Last month — before New York City had any known cases of coronavirus — the Flushing Chinese Business Association estimated that business is down as much as 40 percent in the Flushing neighborhood.
While two cases of the virus also known as COVID-19 have since been confirmed in New York state, neither have been in Flushing or even Queens — despite two major publication’s use of photos of the area in their reporting on a Manhattan case.
An increase in xenophobia and even assaults, in a few cases, against Asian Americans has resulted from the outbreak of coronavirus, which originated in China.
Rep. Meng, the First Vice Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), said she has heard from many Asian American-owned small business owners in her district that are “severely struggling” from concerns over the coronavirus.
“We cannot let them suffer,” Meng said. “Government must be a strong partner in helping small businesses succeed and we must not abandon them in their time of need. I call on all my colleagues to immediately pass this legislation so that our entrepreneurs and small businesses can get back on track.”
The outbreak of the virus has weakened demand in travel and tourism and has slowed the global economy.
Locally, a decline in foot traffic for many retailers and restaurants — particularly those in Chinese communities — have impacted businesses. Retailers who source products from China have been further impacted, by delays or complete cancellations of orders, resulting in lower profits for the company.
“Small businesses around the country and in New York City are beginning to feel the economic effects of the coronavirus,” said Velázquez, the Chair of the House Small Business Committee. “Many of our Asian-owned businesses in New York have already experienced a decline in sales due to misinformation, fear and stigma associated with the virus.”
The bill also prepares for future cases of coronavirus. It would help businesses secure loans in the case that their employees become infected and remain home from work — resulting in a loss of productivity and profit for small firms.