Burlington, VT – BIPOC lead networks are supporting Vermont farms and businesses through collaboration and relief funds.
The Vermont Professionals of Color Network and Vermont Releaf Collective are just two of many organizations dedicating their resources to supporting BIPOC business owners and farmers.
The Vermont Professionals of Color Network is a statewide non-profit built by professionals of color.
VT PoC has been working alongside Governor Phil Scott and the Department of Economic Development to advance economic and social prosperity for BIPOC Vermonters through the VT PoC’s BIPOC Relief Fund.
While $250,000 has already been invested into the program, VT PoC is working on a variety of smaller grants.
Weiwei Wang, co-founder and director of operations and development at VT PoC, says the organization has implemented the Vermont Main Street Flood Recovery Fund opportunity to all small BIPOC business affected by the flood located outside of Montpelier.
“This is a small grant, currently about $2,500, just as a way to bridge that gap until people can decide what they want to do,” said Wang.
Wang says BIPOC community members especially need grant support as many cannot take on more debt or even be approved for a loan.
Of the 401 businesses in the state, 20% are BIPOC owned, but none of the impacted businesses that have received help from the network have flood insurance.
“Any BIPOC individual within that core flood region has been impacted and because we have been historically excluded from programs, we are less likely to get the information ahead of time in time for the application deadlines,” said Wang.
Wang emphasizes BIPOC businesses’ economic contributions to the state as they are responsible for bringing in over a billion dollars of profit annually.
VT PoC has also set up fundraiser and worked with Vermont Releaf Collective and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to provide grants to businesses, renters, and farmers who received physical damage to their property.
“It is important to recognize all the people, not just the big farmers but the little farmers and the people that are just trying to homestead, live off the land, and for indigenous people who are trying to get back to the land and traditional ways of living,” said Vermont Releaf Collective Resource Manager Jennifer Morton.
The 300-member collective works to support BIPOC Vermonters working in relation to farming, land, and agriculture.
Much of its recovery work includes sharing information about farmers’ status to the Organic Farmers Association of Vermont to provide those in need with better grant assistance.
Both Wang and Morton say many farmers and businesses are not only advocating for better infrastructure and safer water systems, but also a better seat at the table.
“Make sure that they are included, whether physically in the room, have an advocate, not necessarily VT PoC, but someone within the community to speak on behalf of the individuals and make sure they are not the only person in the room as well,” said Wang.