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How to help struggling Asian American communities amid coronavirus pandemic

Asian American businesses saw drops in customers as high as 80 percent long before the U.S. isolation rules, as stigma surrounding the virus kept customers out of local Chinatowns.
Image: Mr. Chan cooks at Jade Garden Restaurant in Seattle's Chinatown-International District, as the business moves to takeout-only due to new state restaurant requirements during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Seattle
Mr. Chan, whose brother owns Jade Garden Restaurant in Seattle's Chinatown-International District, cooks in the kitchen as the business moved to takeout-only due to new state restaurant requirements during the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle on March 17, 2020. The restaurant has already seen at least a sixty percent loss in business over the past month.Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

As stay-home orders have arisen quickly across the country in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus, local restaurants and businesses have seen drastically reduced customer traffic and plummeting profits. But perhaps few have been as greatly affected as Asian American businesses, which saw drops in customers as high as 80 percent long before the U.S. began its push for isolation, as stigma surrounding the virus kept customers out of Chinatowns and Chinese restaurants.

Now, as isolation has led to loss of employment and further stagnation of business for many Asian Americans, initiatives at the city and state level seek to provide financial support for struggling Asian American communities. And as reports of racism and hostility continue to rise as a result of the virus — with one organization reporting over 1,100 reports of verbal harassment, shunning and physical assault in just two weeks — some groups are working to raise awareness of the issue.

Here are a few ways you can get involved:

Help for New York’s Chinatown

In New York City, home to several of the country’s largest Chinatowns, a new grassroots initiative seeks to help boost restaurants’ business as their sales continue to suffer. Started by Jennifer Tram, a senior communications manager at Foursquare, and Victoria Lee, a corporate travel strategist at Estée Lauder Companies, “Welcome to Chinatown” allows customers to support local restaurants through gift card and merchandise purchases.

The revenue stream from gift card purchases is intended to help restaurants bridge the gap between now and the end of the city’s in-restaurant dining ban, and the cards cannot be redeemed until after the ban is lifted. The initiative also provides training and support to restaurants that do not currently have a gift card program.

The initiative is currently seeking bilingual volunteers, as well as help spreading the word.

Read more about contributing here.

Food donations and volunteering in L.A.’s Little Tokyo

Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo has seen dozens of shops and restaurants temporarily close in recent weeks, as well as severe losses of business for those that have remained open. #LoveLT, an initiative organized by the Little Tokyo Community Council, calls on residents to support the community by donating meals, ordering takeout or delivery, shopping online, or spreading word about the initiative.

The initiative is seeking volunteers to deliver food to those in financial need, and for donations to its food pantry program.

Read more about contributing here.

Aid for Native Hawaiians, the lowest income AAPINH group

The Hawai’i Resilience Fund, founded by the Hawai’i Community Foundation, provides grants to community-based organizations addressing the COVID-19 crisis across the state. The grants are provided to health care organizations and food banks, supporting those especially at risk amid the pandemic, such as those who are low-income or homeless.

The Hoʻāla Assistance Program, run by the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and one recipient of HRF grants, provides one-time emergency financial support to households facing financial hardship due to the crisis.

According to government data, Native Hawaiians have one of the lowest median household incomes and highest poverty rates among AAPINH communities, putting them particularly at risk for the financial impacts of the virus.

The HRF is currently accepting donations.

Read more about contributing here.

A fund for Seattle restaurants and small businesses

In Washington state, where the virus outbreak in the U.S. began, Seattle’s Chinatown has begun organizing a fund to provide financial assistance to local businesses. The Chinatown International District Restaurants and other Small Businesses Relief Fund allocates grants to businesses in the district, which houses over 400 businesses and over 140 restaurants. The area has seen a sharp decline in revenue since the outbreak began.

The fund is currently accepting donations, 100 percent of which are provided to local businesses.

Read more about contributing here.

Support for in-language health information and resources

In Oakland, California, a health group has launched a crowdsourced effort to provide important health information and resources regarding the coronavirus in nearly 30 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander languages.

Organized by the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, a national policy organization, the initiative aims to aid the many Asian Americans who have limited English proficiency.

Read more about contributing here.

#RacismIsAVirus social media campaign, supporting Asian Americans Advancing Justice

A national social media campaign, #RacismIsAVirus, aims to promote awareness of the violence and hostility Asian Americans have faced as a result of the virus.

The campaign urges individuals to post selfies alongside the hashtag and share their stories in an effort to shine a light on anti-Asian sentiment. It also sells T-shirts and other merchandise, with all donations and proceeds going to Asian Americans Advancing Justice, a nonprofit civil rights group that provides legal and education services to Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.

The campaign, which was started by the actor and director Diane Phelan, who founded the Broadway Diversity Project, has since garnered the support of other prominent figures, including Broadway stars Telly Leung and Anna Harada.

Read more about contributing here.

'Phenomenally Asian' social media campaign, supporting National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum

Phenomenal Women, an organization that raises awareness for social causes, launched a campaign last month in response to reports of racism and xenophobia experienced by the Asian American community.

The campaign, “Phenomenally Asian,” centers around merchandise branded with the campaign name, with all net proceeds going to the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, a national policy group that seeks to empower AAPI women.

Phenomenally Asian has been backed by a number of Asian American celebrities, including Phillip Lim, Karen O, Prabal Gurung and Ross Butler.

Read more about contributing here.

‘Wash the Hate’ social media awareness campaign

“Wash the Hate,” another social media campaign, also seeks to raise awareness of the anti-Asian sentiment born of the virus. The campaign centers around videos of Asian Americans washing their hands while speaking about how the virus has affected them.

The effort has received support from individuals around the country, as well as a number of notable public figures — such as the actors Tzi Ma of “Mulan” and Celia Au of “Wu Assassins.”

Read more about contributing here.