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‘We need help!’: Kamala Harris hears from small business owners in SF Chinatown

US Vice President Kamala Harris takes part in a roundtable to highlight the Administration’s investments Asian American and Pacific Islander small businesses, at the Chinatown public library in San Francisco, Calif., on March 3, 2023. | Samantha Laurey/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris took a quick stop in San Francisco’s Chinatown Friday afternoon to meet with a group of Asian American small business owners and hear about their concerns.

Since the pandemic, small businesses nationwide have struggled to stay open while facing challenges over staffing shortages, inflation and public safety issues.

The roundtable took place at the Chinatown branch of the San Francisco Public Library, with elected city leaders like Mayor London Breed, City Attorney David Chiu and Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Connie Chan in attendance.

In her opening remarks, Harris pointed out that the Biden administration has intentionally allocated resources to support small businesses, which will allow communities to thrive.

Small business owners, Harris said, “truly are not only business leaders. They are community leaders and civic leaders.”

The small business roundtable, hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris, took place at the Chinatown branch of the San Francisco Public Library. | Han Li/The Standard

She also emphasized the importance of community-based banks, as they are situated in the neighborhood and they understand the community culture and needs in a way that larger corporations don’t.

Harris, who’s partially of Indian descent and started her political career in the city, is currently the highest-ranking Asian American in U.S. politics.

After the remarks, media were asked to leave the roundtable event, allowing merchants to speak privately with the vice president.

Tony Lau, a small business owner and a board member of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, was one of the merchants invited to the panel.

He told The Standard that the attendees suggested to Harris that the administration should strengthen its communication with affected communities, to reach greater clarity on different resource programs.

“People don’t know who to speak to,” Lau told The Standard. “We need help!”

He said the merchants also raised the topics of staffing and hiring challenges, which the vice president addressed.

Other well-known Chinatown merchants seated at the roundtable included Kevin Chan of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and Tane Chan of the Wok Shop.

Vice President Kamala Harris hugs a friend at SFO on Friday, March 3, 2023. | Juliana Yamada/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

The Chinatown event was only one part of Harris’ schedule during a quick trip in the Bay Area. She landed at SFO on Friday at noon, where was greeted by a group of Asian American and African American community leaders and activists. She later attended a political fundraiser.

Myron Lee, a community activist invited to greet Harris and briefly chatted with her at the airport, said it was nice to see her back in the city.

“She’s so sweet and an inspiration for us all,” he said.