The COVID-19 pandemic, like most catastrophes, has revealed the fissures of class and race in America, and in New York City as well. Poor and working families, as well as people of color, have suffered the ravages of the pandemic disproportionately. The immigrant and low-income neighborhoods of the Bronx, northern Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens have the highest rates of infection and death in the country. This is no surprise: residents of these communities live in overcrowded apartments, in buildings with elevators that are slow and cramped; they shop for food in crowded and poorly-stocked stores; they travel to work on public transportation to perform essential labor- grocery worker, delivery person, nurse- that brings them face to face with dozens of people every day.
As New York City enters the third year of the pandemic, the longer term impacts of the pandemic are beginning to reveal themselves also- unfortunately, with a profile that highlights the impact on the city's poor, minority, and immigrant communities. Many immigrants were unable or unwilling to take advantage of government relief programs; these programs, in any case, have dwindled away, and tens of thousands- hundreds of thousands- of New Yorkers are confronting joblessness and the threat or reality of homelessness. Food lines stretch around city blocks; food pantries that were open one day a week are now open five or six days. Minority and Woman-owned small businesses, unable to access federal relief programs, struggle to survive.
In 2018, an estimated 25% of Flushing residents lived in poverty, compared to 19% in all of Queens and 20% in all of New York City. Rent burden, or the percentage of residents who have difficulty paying their rent, is 57% in Flushing, higher than the borough-wide and citywide rates of 53% and 51% respectively.
According to Bankbranchlocator.com, there are 34 different banks with 82 branches operating in Flushing. However, despite being a neighborhood particularly devastated by COVID 19, small businesses in Flushing, out of any neighborhood in the entire city, saw the least success getting Paycheck Protection Program loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration
Out of Flushing's 2,400 small businesses, only 913, or about 38 percent, actually received a PPP loan, compared to over 70 percent in Greenpoint, Park Slope, and Brooklyn Heights. This seems due to the fact that Flushing has a very high percentage of immigrant-owned businesses, businesses that have traditionally struggled to surmount cultural and linguistic barriers to credit and services and that have long been shut out or poorly served by mainstream banks' traditional loan underwriting criteria and practices.
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