AAPI Community Hopes for MN Investment Deemed Long Overdue
Wednesday, May 4, 2022
Asian American leaders in Minnesota say some community members still are struggling to recover from economic slides during the pandemic. They're hoping the state will lend a helping hand and make these populations feel less invisible.
How to use the state's historic budget surplus has been key in this year's legislative session. As supplemental spending bills take shape, one provision would mean $1 million to the Coalition of Asian American Leaders. Nick Kor, the group's senior manager of movement building said it would distribute those funds to struggling businesses and nonprofits.
"One million dollars is, in the big scheme of things, not that much money, as you think about it," he said, "and so we think that this can be a start for us."
Kor said it would be a departure from years of disinvestment in their communities, adding the situation has been made worse by anti-Asian hate. In a recent CAAL survey, 43% of Asian American small businesses said they were unable to pay bills during the crisis. However, state House and Senate leaders are at odds over most spending, creating uncertainty for this provision.
Despite being one of the state's fastest-growing populations with significant purchasing power, the coalition pointed to wide economic gaps among Asian American subgroups. For struggling businesses, Kor said, the investment could help overcome barriers.
"Oftentimes," he said, "these small businesses don't have the capacity, don't have the background or experience in navigating government systems."
John Yang, who chairs the Minnesota Hmong Chamber of Commerce, said seeing businesses forced to close would be devasting for their communities and the culturally specific options they've come to rely on.
"The access that the community needs would be harder to find," he said, "and they may have to travel further; they may have to buy out of state."
Funds also could be used for communities to clean up or make repairs following an incident motivated by hate.
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