Backing Small Businesses Grant Program

In 2021, American Express and Main Street America created the Backing Small Businesses* grant program to help economically vulnerable small business owners recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and grow their businesses.

On March 20, 2023, applications will open for 350 small business grants of $5,000 to eligible businesses in the U.S. and territories. the program will increase the number of grants awarded and total funding to more than $2.3 million to further support small business owners in building their economic vitality and fostering a thriving community.

NEW! $25,000 Enhancement Grants

If you are awarded a $5,000 grant through this program, your business may be eligible to be considered for an additional $25,000 Enhancement Grant! All grant recipients will be required to submit a final grant report using a simple template provided. The report will include questions regarding how the grant money was spent plus additional questions about how the business could use additional funding to either expand on their small business grant project or fund a separate project. You will need to showcase how, if selected, the project would further improve the business, while providing goods or services that address cultural, environmental, and/or access needs in the local community. A limited subset of 25 grantees will be selected to receive the additional $25,000 Enhancement Grant.

Eligibility Requirements

Businesses must meet the following criteria to apply:

  • The applicant must be an owner of the business.
  • The applicant must be at least age 18 years or older.
  • The business must be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by small business owners who identify as:
    • Asian American and/or Pacific Islander
    • Black and/or African American
    • Hispanic and/or Latinx
    • Immigrants, Refugees, and/or Forcibly Displaced
    • Members of the LGBTQIA+ Community
    • Middle Eastern and/or North African
    • Native and/or Indigenous
    • People with Disabilities
    • Veterans
    • Women
  • The business is in a “brick-and-mortar” location and operate in an older or historic main street, downtown, or commercial district in the United States. (Home-based businesses, even those located in historic neighborhoods, are not eligible. Brick-and-mortar businesses located outside of historic downtowns and commercial corridors, including, but not limited to, office parks and shopping malls are also not eligible.)
  • The business is an independent business and not part of a franchise.
  • The business must employ less than 20 full-time employees.
  • The business has been in operation since January 1, 2022.
  • 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 business has an active business license in the state where you do business.

What types of grant expenses are eligible?

Eligible grant expenses include but are not limited to:

  • Accessibility Upgrades (Examples: ramp, menu translation, accessible website redesign for visually impaired people, etc.)
  • Community Events and Programs (Examples: open mic night, public educational/training workshops, hosting community fundraisers, partnerships with other small businesses)
  • Equipment and Inventory (Examples: point of sale device/software, purchasing of items for sale, display cases, kitchen equipment)
  • Marketing (Examples: investing in social media campaign, building a website, etc.)
  • Operational Strategy (Examples: branding package, accounting software, business coaching, and other types of support that would increase the viability of your business)
  • Physical Improvements (Examples: signage, awnings, painting facade, new shelving, new lighting, etc.)
  • Sustainability Upgrades (Examples: solar panels, rain garden adjacent to business, investing in reusable/compostable/recyclable packaging alternatives, etc.)
  • Technology Upgrades (Examples: building an online storefront, online ordering system, or other e-commerce platform)
  • Rent and utilities

Program Timeline

  • Applications Open on March 20, 2023
  • Applications Close on April 7, 2023
  • $5,000 Grant Recipients Notified in June 2023
  • Grant Reports Due by September 15, 2023
  • $25,000 Enhancement Grants Announced in October 2023

To learn more about the grant, click here.

To apply, click here.