Opinion: Distribution Of ARPA Funds In Amherst Was Not Equitable


The Drake, Amherst's new downtown music venue received $300,00 in ARPA funds Photo: Amherst BID

The Black Business Association of Amherst Area (BBA) calls upon Amherst town leaders to engage with local Black business owners who did not receive locally distributed ARPA funding or who were confused about how to apply for it through the Business Improvement District (BID) and the Chambers of Commerce.

Under the agreement executed by the Town and the BID, $300,000 of ARPA money was awarded to the non-profit arm of the BID, the Amherst Foundation, to renovate and support The Drake, a bar that opened recently and that was falsely promoted as an economic engine for downtown businesses. An additional $350,000 went to the BID for economic development, $25,000 for pre-existing local businesses, $40,000 for start up businesses and $35,000 to provide technical assistance to businesses.

BID is an organization that represents a group of mostly white, wealthy property owners and land developers in Amherst. The BID should not have been the gatekeepers of public funds meant to support businesses most impacted by the pandemic. The town made a mistake by choosing to concentrate more money, power, influence, and control in the BID, which has not done the work to address bias. There was no consideration of whether Black business owners, who feel invisible in downtown Amherst, would be able to tap into ARPA funds. BIPOC groups such as BBA were not invited to the table to determine fair and equitable distribution of the ARPA tax dollars to the business community.

With more than eleven million dollars of ARPA funds floating around, more businesses that desperately need the help should benefit. There needs to be more accountability, and transparency, and the ability of the public to follow the money. As it stands, the public is not aware of award amounts to the businesses that received local ARPA funds and why some businesses were denied funding or did not apply. BBA seeks a fair share of ARPA Funds for Black business owners in Amherst and for technical assistance to grow their businesses.

Read an another story on inequitable distribution of ARPA funds in Amherst in The Daily Hampshire Gazette.

The Black Business Association of Amherst was established in 2016. The group met monthly prior to pandemic. Membership is free to business owners who identify as black in Amherst and surrounding communities. They can be reached at bbaamherst@gmail.com

Spread the love

3 thoughts on “Opinion: Distribution Of ARPA Funds In Amherst Was Not Equitable

  1. Early in the pandemic, I was pleased to support the BID and Chamber in their admirable fundraising efforts to support small businesses before federal money became available.

    However, I am alarmed to read the statement by the Black Business Association of Amherst Area (BBA) about how government funds were later allowed to be managed and distributed by the same BID and Chamber within unknown oversight.

    Spending $300,000 on the Drake, just one organization out of many town businesses, is excessive, leaving very little money to the small businesses which residents supported early on. Certainly these businesses need continued support.

    And how is the $350,000 being spent in “economic development?” What are the parameters for allocating this money to BIPOC business members of our community?

    Lastly, did the Town Council vote on this arrangement or did the Town Manager have to power to allocate the distribution of these funds through the BID and Chamber?

    This situation is very distressing and needs to be addressed by the Council.

  2. I agree. Thank you for clearly expressing what I have not been able to put in writing.

  3. A well written article, pointing to a serious problem with the town’s distribution of funds.

Leave a Reply

The Amherst Indy welcomes your comment on this article. Comments must be signed with your real, full name & contact information; and must be factual and civil. See the Indy comment policy for more information.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.