Each Spring, as the snow begins to melt, the restaurant patios start to open, and sidewalks along Main street begin buzzing with activity.
The energy and optimism in the air are palpable. And this year, perhaps more than ever, we are starting to see our community awaken and come alive again. With 39% of Erie County residents having at least one vaccination shot and 25% completing a vaccine series, there is an even greater sense of momentum building. We see it first hand at the Chamber. A flurry of membership activity and several new investors have joined the ranks in the past forty days. We are eager to build off the optimism and are rapidly filling our calendar with excellent opportunities for you to network, educate your team, and grow your business.
This week, we kick off our three-part "Marketing Academy" in conjunction with Spectrum Reach on April 15 via zoom. This session will focus on defining your marketing goals, using those goals to target your audience, and deploying your strategy in the best way possible to achieve success. You are not required to participate in all three sessions upon registration. We have built this program with our members in mind. We heard from each of you, the need to learn how to be more cutting edge in marketing efforts and understanding all that is available. Spectrum Reach has even offered their team of professionals to meet with members for a "Big Ideas" brainstorming session at a later date for those participants. The value and depth of knowledge Spectrum Reach bring to the topic is too good an opportunity for any company to pass up.
Just last week, the 2022 New York State budget was passed, representing one of the most significant spending increases in our State's history. Over the past 12 months, business owners across the country, and of course in our own community, were compelled to make difficult decisions, with many forced to cut staff, dial back operations, or shutter permanently. With that in mind, an overall increase of 9.9 percent in government spending is a difficult pill to swallow. However, there is a compromise with all budget negotiations, and in compromise, we see some promising policy and funding decisions.
For instance, this year's budget included increased funding for infrastructure projects, one billion dollars targeted for small businesses, arts, entertainment, and restaurant relief, and one hundred million dollars allocated for Downtown Revitalization Initiatives. Our State Legislature also recently passed legislation legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana in New York State. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes has championed this legislation for many years, and we are thrilled she has agreed to speak with our members Tuesday, April 20. The Assembly Majority Leader has graciously offered to take questions about this groundbreaking new legislation, provide insight into what it means for residents, and provide a more in-depth analysis of the New York State budget. Please be sure to register for this event.
We have a full calendar of events that also include Lunch Mob, our first ever Chamber Book Club, ProNet, and a tour of Hansa, one of our region's newest and hottest co-working spaces. Be sure to view our events calendar and register today.
I mentioned last month I would update our membership on the Small Business Awards Luncheon & Showcase. Last year's cancellation was so disappointing to us and our membership; however, we are thrilled to bring this great event back to life in 2021. While the past 12 months have been a tremendous hardship for small businesses, we have many survival, growth, and success stories that deserve to be celebrated. We are proud to announce the 2021 Small Business Luncheon will take place Thursday, July 22, at Samuel's Grande Manor. With the current state of vaccinations in Erie County, we hope that July will provide us the most significant opportunity to responsibly host this event while delivering the first-in-class experience our members have come to expect from the Chamber. Nomination forms will be going out shortly to our members.
We continue to stay focused on delivering for our members to create a better Western New York. Our team is here, and we are focused and dedicated to delivering on that mission. We will continue to provide programming, services and opportunities that benefit you and your business. A reminder that our in-house brokerage is yours to use for business health, dental and vision insurance. If there is an area where we should be focused or a program we should offer, please remember my door is always open.