Claim: Many Vietnamese-Americans believe that Trump’s economic policies have helped the Vietnamese community.
Rating: This claim is FALSE. The lack of leadership from the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic has left state governments scrambling for funding to support small businesses and ensure the health and safety of their citizens. Consequently, many Vietnamese-owned small businesses, like nail salons and restaurants, are struggling to stay afloat.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in mid-March, the federal government, specifically the Trump administration, has downplayed the severity of the disease, saying that it will “disappear.” Many states’ governments had to take matters into their own hands when the coronavirus outbreak first occurred, and held press conferences to discuss plans on eviction moratorium, small business loans, and public safety measures.
Asian-American businesses were the first to get hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the outbreaks occurred on American soil, Asian-American businesses saw drops in customers as high as 80%, long before the US public health officials pushed for social distancing.
When many states shut down in March, it negatively affected small businesses, including Vietnamese-owned ones. For instance, 91% of manicurists have applied for unemployment insurance; a large percentage of nail salon workers are Vietnamese. In Santa Clara County alone, one nail salon has shut down permanently, seven remained closed, and two are operating with only one nail technician.
It’s not just nail salons. Restaurants around the country are struggling; 60% of restaurants have closed since March, with most in California, Texas, New York, and Florida. Pho Ca Dao, a popular Vietnamese shop in San Diego, has lost 50% of its business since the pandemic started. Other Vietnamese restaurants are juggling how to stay open safely with many having to pivot to take-out only to stay afloat.
These small businesses have little chance of obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program loan as owners don’t have existing relationships with mainstream banks or credit unions, and none of the financial-relief services offered by the US Small Business Administration provide translations into Asian languages on their websites. Immigrant business owners have had to rely on their children or neighbors to navigate relief programs. The double hit of xenophobia and lockdowns has many Vietnamese-Americans questioning whether they will have the chance to recover from the pandemic.
The Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic stands in contrast to the Obama administration’s tackling of the Ebola outbreak in 2014. The leadership from the Obama administration had minimal effect on small businesses in America as Obama took immediate action to send troops and medical professionals into West Africa to halt the spread of the virus.
Under Obama’s leadership, Congress passed a $5.4 billion supplemental package that not only strengthened America’s global network of disease surveillance but also improved the preparedness of the U.S. healthcare system. By contrast, Trump dismantled the pandemic response team that was established by the Obama administration.
Update: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Asian-American unemployment rate went from 2.8% in 2019 to a height of 15% in May 2020; its 10.7% as of August 2020, one of the highest in the country.
Conclusion: The claim that Vietnamese Americans are doing better economically under Trump has been determined to be false. Trump’s lack of leadership continues to hurt Vietnamese owned businesses and has individuals working in the nail salon industry and restaurant industry struggling to find a way to support their families.