Local Asian businesses and farmers hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Many local Asian small business owners and farmers say they've been left out when it comes to pandemic relief.

By the time many found out about government loans, the money was already gone. The farm work continues for Chong Ge Xiong, but much of his market base has been cut off.

"I don't know where to start because I'm a small farmer, and I'm not sure where I can go or who I can go to," Xiong said.

In his 28 years of farming, Chong says he's never seen anything like this. He's grown everything from Chinese broccoli to cilantro and snap peas. He sells them at farmer's markets in Fresno and Kern Counties, but since many have been shut down since the shelter in place order was issued, he's losing $1,200 a week.

"In three or four months, my house is gone."

Dao Lor is the program manager at the Asian Business Institute and Resource Center of Fresno. He sees the problem firsthand every day: small Asian business owners struggling to survive during the pandemic. He doesn't know of a single one that's received federal pandemic assistance.

"When there's a grant or a program that opens up, it's usually the bigger farmers or bigger businesses. They get in line first and anybody who is like a minority or small business they usually don't know about it until the very end, and then when they get in line, it's already too late," Lor said.

There are also other challenges for Chong. He speaks English well enough to sell vegetables, but not enough to read or fill out government paperwork.

Dao says the language barrier has been one issue for many Asian small business owners. Some also lack internet knowledge and rely on their kids to translate and help.

Many small farmers are trying to remain optimistic, despite now watching much of their hard work go to waste.

Since Chong can't sell much of his current crop, he's harvesting what he can to donate to a local church to feed those who are out of work and need it most.

For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to ABC30.com/coronavirus
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