American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars could soon make their way to black and brown business owners in Erie County.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission — also known as Diverse Erie — has launched a mini-grant series. It’s intended to support organizations with the needed funds to empower Black, Indigenous and people of color in the Erie community.

“This is going to allow the BIPOC community businesses to grow, and we’re looking to invest and create jobs through this particular initiative so that more and more companies can flourish and grow, and not only that, more people can live in Erie County,” said Gary Lee, chief administrative officer, Diverse Erie Commission.

This comes as Erie County Council continues to withhold $3.5 million that was formerly promised to Diverse Erie.

Erie County Council Chairman Brian Shank said he’s excited about this mini-grant series; however, he’s not sure if more funding is on its way.

“It comes down to basic economic development — helping a very specific group of people that need that little extra help up, and we’re here to do that. The future? I don’t know. We’ll see what when we get there but this is a great first step to make sure this is a good entity and works and goes forward,” said Brian Shank, (R) Erie County Council chairman.

The application opens May 15 and closes June 2.

Erie County Councilman Andre Horton believes this funding is needed as communities of color have been excluded from the budget for several years. 

“It’s a hope, a symbolic gesture and it’s a real tangible step in action in saying that yeah we acknowledge that things weren’t always done right and we stand ready to try and correct some of those things,” Andre Horton, (D) Erie County councilman.