Modified: October 13, 2020 10:42am

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Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz, Erie County Business Task Force (“Task Force”) co-chairs Scott Pallotta and Brenda McDuffie, and 43North President Colleen Heidinger were joined by multiple partners today at Miss Barbara’s School of Dance in Buffalo to announce the creation of the Erie County Back to Business Grant Program, a relief program targeting small businesses that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Working in coordination with 43North, Erie County is committing $20 million in U.S. CARES Act funding for direct financial assistance to eligible small businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The grant program aims to disburse funds to businesses with the greatest need while distributing the aid to as many small businesses as possible in amounts that will create a meaningful impact.

The program will emphasize diversity and need in the distribution of funds, prioritizing those that have yet to receive COVID related aid; minority and women owned businesses; businesses in highly-distressed zip codes; those seeking to hire or bring back furloughed/laid off employees; and businesses still not allowed to reopen. Grant funds can be applied to a range of eligible expenses including operations, payroll, adaptations to meet COVID restrictions, rent and more. Small businesses can learn more and apply at .

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, “This grant program will provide direct aid to small businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, targeting businesses that really need the assistance and have yet to receive any or are prevented from opening. Small businesses are tremendous economic drivers and are the backbone of our community but they have been overlooked as larger companies have garnered attention and relief funding. We are supporting local small business with this critical funding and assistance and I thank our many partners for working together to provide this aid.”

Poloncarz was also joined at the announcement by Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26), Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, 43North Immediate Past Board Chairman and Ignite Buffalo Co-founder Bill Maggio, Amherst Chamber of Commerce President/CEO A.J. Baynes, President/CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara Patrick Kaler, and Erie County Legislature Chairperson April Baskin (2nd District) along with members of the Legislature’s Majority Caucus.

A recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that two out of three (66%) of minority-owned small businesses are concerned about having to permanently close their doors due to COVID-19 related issues and that more minority-owned businesses expect revenue to decrease than do non-minority-owned enterprises. Locally, a study by Accountable US Action found that the federal government's main effort to rescue small businesses during the pandemic, the Payment Protection Program (“PPP”) tended to benefit wealthier neighborhoods far more than highly distressed areas in Erie County with predominately minority populations.

“We have all seen the devastating effects of the COVID-19 shutdown on our local economy. Minority-owned businesses in Highly Distressed areas have been especially hard-hit, and the parameters of this grant program were designed to place those businesses at the front of the line,” said Erie County Business Task Force Co-Chair Brenda McDuffie said. “I encourage all small businesses to review this grant program and if they qualify, apply for the funds, even if you previously received other aid or were turned down for PPP loans.”

Erie County Business Task Force Co-Chair Scott Pallotta added, “It is important that we support our locally owned businesses that have been negatively impacted by the COVID restrictions. Our focus is to quickly get the word out to everyone in need such that they can continue to survive or transition to a new successful business model.”

Miss Barbara’s School of Dance Founder, Barbara Glover said, "For the past 55 years, Miss Barbara's School of Dance has provided a service to the Buffalo community. Our students learn more than dance here. They learn lessons about character, grace, and poise. My business relies on people. With no one in the studio, there is no income, but the overhead continues. Receiving a Back to Business Grant would be the relief I need to help me get through this uncertain time."

In addition to employing 50 people or fewer eligible businesses must be able to show a loss of gross revenue or a reduced level of production or sales due to the pandemic, must have a business address and 90% of their employees located in Erie County, must have no more than $7.5 million in gross total sales for 2019, and must be in business for at least one year from the program’s launch.

“Small businesses are among those hit the hardest by an this unanticipated health crisis which has led to an economic crisis,” said Congressman Higgins. “The Back to Business grant program takes a portion of the federal resources provided to Erie County through the CARES Act and reinvests it back in the community, providing a boost to the small business owners that play an essential role in supporting local jobs and fueling the region’s economy.”

Mayor Byron W. Brown stated, “This $20 million grant is an important step in addressing the immediate need of many of our small businesses. A variety of studies by both academic and financial institutions have highlighted how the economic fall-out from the COVID-19 global health pandemic has been felt more harshly in the Black and Hispanic communities. Today’s announcement offers those business owners some much needed relief.”

The grant program is being administered by Erie County in coordination with 43North. Funding will be granted based on need to businesses that meet eligibility requirements. Amounts will be determined by business size and need.

43North Board Member and Ignite Buffalo Co-founder Bill Maggio said, “While 43North’s mission is rooted in startups, entrepreneurship comes in all shapes and sizes. As we did with our Ignite Buffalo initiative back in 2018, 43North is honored to share our resources and expertise to support the entrepreneurial engine that keeps our region alive and thriving – our small business community.”

Amherst Chamber President and CEO AJ Baynes said, “The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic depression has taken a heavy toll on Erie County’s small businesses. The Amherst Chamber is thrilled to have been actively involved in voicing the concerns of the small business community to assist the county as they formulated this program. I applaud Erie County, 43North and all of the partners who made this program possible, providing direct relief when businesses need it the most. The Chamber encourages all eligible businesses to apply today.”

Buffalo Niagara Partnership President & CEO Dottie Gallagher added, “There is no question that these grants are desperately needed by small businesses. We will do all we can to help Erie County communicate this opportunity, we must work together and work quickly to take advantage of this opportunity.”

Eligible applicants to the Back to Business Grant Program will receive:

- $10,000 in funding for businesses with a sole proprietor

- $25,000 in funding for businesses with 2-25 employees

- $45,000 in funding for businesses with 26-50 employees

Awarded grants can be used for a variety of eligible past and future expenses but must be spent by December 30, 2020. The application deadline is Monday, November 2, 2020.

Erie County and 43North strongly encourage small business • $10,000 in funding for businesses with a sole proprietor

• $25owners to apply as soon as possible to gain access to aid before funds are depleted.

Businesses can learn more and apply at