KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — Businesses everywhere are still struggling to make up financial losses during the pandemic, and there’s help available to all people.
The West Michigan Asian American Association is partnering with Kent County to help keep this important part of the local economy alive.
“You got Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and all the languages are different,” said Tony Phung, a manager at Millennium Nails inside Woodland Mall.
Language barriers provide a unique challenge to many Asian American business owners.
“I have great English and I can help my family go through unemployment and stuff like that,” he said. “But there are people out there that don’t have that, so they just chalk it up and say, ‘I can’t get any money for this.'”
And part of that comes from culture.
“Many of our Asian American people have fled countries where the government is not trusted and when free money — quote-unquote free money — is not viewed as something very positive,” said Bing Goei, a member of the WMAAA.
A study from New American Economy says minority-owned businesses contribute about $800 million to Kent County’s gross domestic product. Asian American’s make up more than half of that figure, according to Goei.
With the help of the county, the WMAAA brought on a team of about a dozen translators, lawyers, financial advisers and writers to help these businesses get coronavirus relief.
“Some words from the Asian languages may not translate really well into the English words, and our writers are able to craft the right message and story behind the request,” he said.
And the Kent County Small Business Recovery Program is already showing results
“I feel very fortunate and Kent County thinking about a small business like us made me feel very warm and hope for the future,” said Susan Bui, owner of Su Alteration, also within Woodland Mall.
There is nearly $25 million at the ready and it’s just a matter of these Asian American businesses letting the county know they’re there.
“I feel like it’s not a problem to ask for help,” said Phung. “I feel like you really should use the resources that are there — they’re great. That’s what they’re meant for. So, I think people should just utilize what they have. It’s not like you’re going out of your way. They’re there for you.”
The application can be found online. People can get help with the application process, advisement or translation by emailing COVID.WMAAA@GMAIL.COM.