Sense & Centsibility Blog
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Support for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Facing Economic Uncertainty and Racism

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month. In the United States, Asians and Pacific Islanders are an essential part of our nation’s culture, infrastructure, history and economy. We celebrate all their contributions.

Many in the AAPI community, however, have been affected disproportionately by the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses and employees have also been hurt by misguided fears and racist acts directed towards them.

COVID-19’s Economic Impact on the AAPI Community

A study from the University of California, Santa Cruz found that Asian-owned businesses nationwide were among those most greatly impacted by the pandemic, falling by 20% from February to December in 2020. These owners are overrepresented in some of the sectors hardest-hit by COVID-19. They make up 26% of accommodations and food service, 17% of retail trade and 11% of education services businesses.

The impact on the AAPI community is felt here in Minnesota, too. Forty-five percent of all employed citizens of Asian descent filed for unemployment insurance between March 16, 2020 and April 3, 2021.

The pandemic’s economic impact has been especially hard on women, particularly Asian American women. The National Women’s Law Center reported that in December 2020, 44% of Asian American women who lost their jobs during the pandemic were out of work for at least six months, which is the highest rate among women of any racial group. Women in the AAPI community, like women of color generally, disproportionately work in the service sector industries that have borne a larger brunt of the economic downturn.

An Increase in Racist Acts During the Pandemic

Members of the AAPI community have also endured racism and xenophobia. Tragically, fear and hateful acts towards this community have increased since the coronavirus started spreading.

From urban centers like Chinatown in San Francisco and New York to Asian-owned businesses in suburban strip malls and rural America, businesses became targets of racial harassment. The advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate documented that more than 32% of discrimination cases reported between March 2020 and March 2021 occurred at businesses.

The impact of this hate towards businesses was immediate. A full month before nationwide lockdowns began, misguided fears of the virus effectively closed businesses in many Asian American cultural districts, even though few people in those areas were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Supporting the AAPI Community

As part of ongoing efforts to support those whose lives and livelihood have been damaged during the pandemic, we must support our AAPI communities that are struggling to recover economically and that continue to be targets and victims of racial violence and acts of hate. 

Here are some suggestions on how we can provide that support as individuals:

  1. Donate time, talent and resources to local community groups that serve and are led by the AAPI community. The Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans has a list of human service, cultural, health, advocacy and educational organizations.
  2. Purchase goods and services from local AAPI businesses.
  3. Encourage education and empathy and seeing each other as humans with value to dismantle the barriers that divide our communities.

As a service of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS), LSS Financial Counseling strongly supports the organization’s Policy on Anti-Racism. That policy states we do not “tolerate prejudice, racism, discrimination or harassment of any kind on an organizational or personal level. LSS will identify, confront and eliminate barriers that may prevent all people of LSS from participating fully in the organization and the larger community.” We support the AAPI community and denounce the increased violence and hate crimes.

LSS Financial Counseling is one part of the solution to addressing the inequities in our economy and improving the financial wellness of all individuals, including those of AAPI descent. We partner with other non-profits, businesses and financial institutions committed to financial wellness for everyone.

Our certified financial counselors are empathetic to how systemic barriers and outside forces can affect finances. We provide trusted, non-judgmental support to guide individuals and families through their financial situation, and we equip them with the necessary education and tools to achieve financial goals. Our services include budget and debt repayment strategies, credit report reviews, preparation for homeownership and student loan counseling. Contact us 888.577.2227 or get all your support online.

Mei Lin KrollCo-author Mei Lin Kroll is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.



Kim MillerCo-author Kim Miller is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.