City excludes parts of Chinatown from small business pandemic loans for low-income neighborhoods
A city’s pandemic loan program to help small businesses in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color has left part of Manhattan’s Chinatown behind.
At the end of November, the City’s Small Business Services Department launched a $ 35 million low to moderate income storefront loan program. Small businesses in some neighborhoods could receive up to $ 100,000 in zero-interest loans. The funds would provide loans to at least 350 businesses across the city, depending on the size of the loans allocated.
To be eligible, businesses must have fewer than 100 employees and be located in a postal code for low to moderate income.
Postal code 10002 qualifies for loans. But sections including Mott Street, Pell Street and Doyers Street, and various blocks surrounding Columbus Park in the neighboring 10013 zip code were left out of the schedule. Postal code 10038 also excludes other sections of Chinatown and Two Bridges.
“My first initial reaction was I’m sure this is some kind of administrative oversight. They didn’t realize 10013 was also part of Chinatown,” said Yin Kong, director of Think! Chinatown, a neighborhood arts and storytelling organization.
She proposed solutions how to use census tract data at SBS, to no avail.
“Our neighborhood could also be left out for future COVID relief programs,” Kong worries.
Postal code 10013, which includes parts of SoHo and Tribeca, is often ranked among the richest in the country.
But the city population database shows that an area of the omitted postal code – Census Tract 29 – has a median household income of just over $ 27,000 in parts of Chinatown that do not qualify for the new loan program. Almost 42% of families depend on social security and almost 47% have used food stamps in the past year in this region, according to census data.
Just north in Census Tract 41, which also covers parts of 10013, the median household income is around $ 79,000, but family income varies widely and around 24% of households depend on Social Security and 22 % used food stamps in the past year. The postal code problem was first reported by SinoVision.
City Housing Preservation and Development Department considered the highest threshold for moderate income is $ 122,880 for a family of three.
For the owner of Taiwan Bear House on Pell Street near Doyers Street, the loan would have come in handy after a year with reduced sales.
“I wish we could be included as many small businesses like us are struggling,” said owner Kris Kuo.
Kuo’s company got a federal loan, but the money has already been used.
Jan Lee, of the Chinatown Core Block Association, noted that the loan program was touted as beneficial to communities of color as part of the agency. initial announcement.
“The loan is designed for minority communities and minority businesses. I don’t understand how you can leave Chinatown out because you are using us in your advertising for your office,” Lee said. “Use our faces, use our businesses, use us as a backdrop for your so-called minority advocacy.”
Christina Seid, whose father founded the Chinatown ice cream factory on Bayard Street near Mott Street, said the omission was part of a trend to exclude Chinatown from government aid programs.
“I don’t see why a program that is supposed to benefit Chinatown omits the main zip code that Chinatown is in,” Seid said. “It’s like the heart of Chinatown.”
“When Chinatown was first developed, it was Pell, Bayard. It was the origin of Chinatown,” she added.
Seid said his neighbors who may not speak English or have legal services to deal with intensive paperwork for loan applications may have difficulty accessing such programs to begin with.
SBS spokeswoman Shaina Coronel noted that the LMI storefront lending program was designed to align with the federal postal codes of the Department of Urban Housing and Development’s median income. Only 10% of small businesses in low to moderate income zip codes have obtained federal P3s loans, she noted. Other East Asian communities across the city are included in the new loan program, according to the city’s agency.
The city says it has provided $ 7.45 million in grants and loans to Chinatown, Sunset Park, Flushing, Homecrest, Bensonhurst, Elmhurst, East Village and Forest Hills.
Chinatown community groups and elected officials met with SBS to discuss the issue, most recently on New Years Eve.
“I ask SBS for an explanation and urge to include 10013 in the LMI storefront lending program – the use of postcodes alone misses needy businesses that straddle these borders,” the president said. Manhattan Borough, Gale Brewer, in a statement.
But even if SBS finds a quick fix, Lee fears it’s too little, too late.
Last spring, the first SBS emergency grant program ran out of money in a few weeks. A potentially repayable federal loan program, called the Paycheck Protection Program, has also run out of funds quickly and have been heavily criticized for benefiting large companies on small businesses. (Gothamist’s parent company, New York Public Radio, received a PPP loan of $ 8.9 million this year.)
SBS did not respond to how much of the city’s $ 35 million loan program was left, but the agency said applications were still open and being processed.
Another Chinatown business in zip code 10013, Jing Fong Dim Sum Banquet Hall, had to cut its hours to three days a week in mid-March, long before the city was subject to a stay-at-home policy, due to lack of customers.
A manager at the famous Elizabeth Street restaurant, Truman Lam, said the restaurant was unlikely to apply to the new loan program even though zip code 10013 was included in it.
He is already worried about having to pay back some of the company’s nearly depleted PPP funds, as he predicts this will not be fully forgiven.
“We’re probably more inclined not to want to take on the extra responsibility,” Lam said. “What we really need [are] subsidies.”