Can American Rescue Plan money help close the Cape's equity gap? Maybe. Here's how.

CAPE COD — Amplify POC Cape Cod will use two ARPA awards totaling $110,000 to start an equity fund for students and business owners in 2023, according to founder and CEO Tara Vargas-Wallace.

The nonprofit will use the money to launch two programs. The first will award 10 grants up to $5,000 to businesses owned by people of color so they can expand and stabilize their operations. Amplify POC hopes to grow the fund with additional fundraising efforts to continue the program.

A second program will be for students of color. Amplify will distribute up to 10 student stipends of up to $500 each. The John Reed Student Assistance program, named in honor of NAACP Cape Cod President John Reed’s advocacy and support of Cape Cod youth, will run through 2023.

In this June 2022 file photo, Amplify POC board chairwoman Jeanne Morrison, left, and Amplify POC founder and executive director Tara Vargas Wallace talk with then-Attorney General, now Gov. Maura Healey
In this June 2022 file photo, Amplify POC board chairwoman Jeanne Morrison, left, and Amplify POC founder and executive director Tara Vargas Wallace talk with then-Attorney General, now Gov. Maura Healey

Amplify POC marketVendors arrive in Hyannis to take part in Amplify POC market

State Rep. Kip Diggs and state Sen. Julian Cyr helped secure about $50,000 and $60,000 respectively through House and Senate allocations, according to Vargas-Wallace. Both legislators complimented the work done by Amplify since 2020, when it was founded. Cyr said the funds will help build a more equitable Cape Cod.

Regenerating economic activity following the pandemic and boosting the small businesses and Cape economy is what ARPA funds were intended for, according to Diggs. He added that Amplify POC is well-situated to support small businesses and people of color.

"There's a lot of people of color,” Diggs said. “We're trying to take care of everybody. Small businesses and people of color will help bring the equity gap to where we need to be.”

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According to researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis the median white family had $184,000 in wealth compared to $38,000 and $23,000 for the median Hispanic and Black families, respectively, in 2019. The analysis showed the wealth gap between white and Black families has hardly changed over the last 20 years.

Amplify was founded in 2020 in part to help change the equity gap on the Cape and support POC-owned businesses. Initially the organization listed POC-owned businesses in the region. Since its beginning, Amplify has hosted vendor fairs and educational programming such as business planning, grant writing, leadership and networking events.

Rep. Kip Diggs
Rep. Kip Diggs

Amplify received half of the ARPA awards ($55,000) but must match the remaining $55,000 before they can receive the additional $55,000, according to Vargas-Wallace.

How to apply for Amplify POC Cape Cod business grants and student stipends

Applications for both programs will be available online by Jan. 31 at in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. A committee composed of POC community members will review the applications and applicants will be chosen based on need with the goal of increasing access to communities of color. Deadline to apply for both programs is April 20. 

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Meet the new Board of Directors for Amplify POC Cape Cod

Amplify POC Cape Cod announced the election of four new Board of Directors members in early January. Dr. Debra Dagwan, Beverley Roberts, Dr. William Roberts, and Sean Gonsalves started serving in January.

Dagwan is an educator and activist whose life work has been focused on civil rights, racial justice, equality for women, individuals with disabilities and LGBTQ rights. She was on the Barnstable Town Council for 12 years, Barnstable School Committee for six years, and NAACP for 30 years.

Beverley Roberts is an artist who owns Mijiza Images. Roberts also serves as a committee member for the Cape Cod Foundations Women and Girls Fund.

Dr. William Roberts is a board member of the Cape Organization for the Rights of the Disabled, Cape Cod Community College Education Foundation Board and MASS HIRE Workforce of the Cape and Islands. Roberts holds a master’s degree in administration and organizational development and a doctorate in counseling/clinical psychology.

Longtime reporter and communication strategist Sean Gonsalves is a board member of OpenCape and FalmouthNet. Through his work as a senior reporter, editor and researcher for the Institute for Local Self Reliance, he is an expert on the digital divide.

Contact Denise Coffey at Follow her on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.

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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Business grants, student stipends, new board members from Amplify POC