What kind of support can small businesses get during the pandemic? Will they be able to recover after Covid? We sat down with our Business Advisor Grace Henricks to learn about her role in supporting businesses in 2020.
APANO: How much aid has the APANO small business program distributed to small businesses in 2020?
Grace: We dispersed $280,000 in the form of CARES Block Grants to smaller API businesses.
APANO: What is one thing people may not know about the struggles that BIPOC-owned businesses have faced during the pandemic?
Grace: In the beginning of the pandemic, third party delivery services like DoorDash and Grubhub manipulated many of these businesses by taking up to 60% of their sales, calling it a “marketing fee” or “delivery fee.” Many of our API businesses were held hostage to this inequitable arrangement due to language and technology barriers.
It wasn’t until business owners shared this with us that we knew we had to address this on a policy level. We eventually worked with Commissioner Chloe Eudaly’s office to cap delivery fees at 10%. It’s a shame that some third party delivery services continue to abuse these caps (learn more about the ordinance here). But this is one example of how API struggles can lead to systemic change that can benefit everyone.
APANO: Why is it important to have dedicated support for API small businesses?
My role as Business Advisor exists because many API small business owners think that help isn’t for them. There is a sense of alienation or segregation. There are language and technology barriers because these businesses don’t go online or on social media. They don’t know what resources exist, and don’t understand the process to get information and apply.
That’s why many of them were blown away when they got grants. When we had dropped off their check, the owners from Tin Tin Restaurant cried saying, “We are so grateful for your help, we could not get anything before. We cannot believe that we can get something from the government too!” Grants are not just about being kept financially afloat. It’s also about offering hope in the form of connections we have as a community, and to ensure that each one of us is seen and heard.
APANO: What is your hope for BIPOC-owned businesses in 2021?
Grace: We hope to stay connected with these businesses who are often out there and alone. There are many immigrants who have been scammed. So we aim to build trust and rapport with them, and show there is a place for them in Oregon.