American Express’ Backing Small Iinitiative

November 15, 2021

Helping Underrepresented Small Businesses Thrive
As small businesses continue to feel the impact of the pandemic, many still need support keep their doors open. To back underrepresented small business owners as they navigate the pandemic and plan for long-term success and resilience, American Express is partnering with Main Street America to launch a $1.65M year-round program called
Inclusive Backing. Part of American Express’ Backing Small initiative, the program will provide hundreds of underrepresented small businesses with financial support as well as other resources to address their critical needs and challenges.

More than 250 grants of $5,000 each will be awarded in four cycles over 12 months to small business owners in older or historic commercial districts across the country, with priority given to businesses that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. In partnership with Disability:IN and National ACE Foundation, the first grant cycle will provide grants to both small business owners with disabilities and/or those who identify as Asian, Asian American and/or Pacific Islander. Applications will open Nov. 18 at 9am CT.

Membership in the National Main Street Center is not required to be eligible for the Program. Find additional eligibility requirements and other details on the first grant cycle below.
Community Partners
Disability:IN and National ACE Foundation
What types of businesses are eligible?
Businesses must meet the following criteria to apply:

The business must be a business entity in good standing in the state in which it was formed and the state in which it does business.
The applicant’s business has a “brick-and-mortar” location and operates in an older or historic main street, downtown or commercial district in the U.S.
The applicant’s business employs 20 or fewer full-time employees, including the owner.
The applicant’s business has been in operation since January 1, 2020.
The applicant is an owner of the business and is 18 years of age or older.
Business must be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled, by a person with disabilities and/or a person who identifies as Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander (AAPI).
What types of grant expenses are eligible?
Eligible grant expenses include but are not limited to:

Physical improvements to business space to meet relevant reopening requirements implemented because of COVID-19
Equipment to comply with public health and safety guidelines (i.e., touchless payment methods, automatic door open sensors, or disposable menus)
Fees associated with expanding the business to e-commerce sales and/or other business innovations
Other professional services, such as business plan modifications
Rent, payroll, and other operating expenses
How to Apply
Applications for the first grant cycle will open on Thursday, November 18 at 9am CT and close Monday, November 29 at 11:59pm CT. You will find a link to the application on this page once it opens.

You can preview the application here. Please note that applications will only be accepted through the application portal once it opens on Nov. 18.
Program Timeline
Cycle 1: Providing grants to both small business owners with disabilities and/or those who identify as Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander.
Application Opens: November 18, 2021 at 9am CT
Application Closes: November 29, 2021 at 11:59pm CT
All applicants notified via email in mid-January 2022
Future grant cycles will be announced in early 2022.
Small Business Resources
Inclusive Backing is one of many new programs American Express has launched to support small businesses — including the Coalition to Back Black Businesses and Backing Historic Small Restaurants. More information and resources about American Express’ support for small businesses can be found here.

Main Street America will provide training and resources to support small businesses that apply for the program, including:

Specialized marketing webinars delivered by Main Street America topic experts.
Free admission to upcoming small business training provided by Main Street America.
Dedicated resources like the Main Street Online tool, and more, developed by Main Street America.
Read grant FAQs here. Contact or call 312-610-5613 and leave a voicemail with any other questions.

Please allow up to two (2) full business days to respond to all inquiries.
Main Street America (the National Main Street Center) has partnered with American Express to launch the “Inclusive Backing” (the “Inclusive Backing grant program”) which is administered by Main Street America. No personal information received from your application to the Inclusive Backing Program will be shared with American Express without your consent; only business information necessary to administer the program will be provided to American Express. Please review the Main Street America privacy policy here: