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Inclusive Backing Grant Program Application - Cycle 4

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 with a $2.05M year-round grant program called Inclusive Backing. More than 300 grants of $5,000 each will be awarded in four cycles  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 and preference given to businesses owned by underrepresented groups, including People of Color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, veterans, and women.

The fourth grant cycle will provide grants to small business owners who identify as Native or Indigenous, Hispanic or Latinx, LGBTQ+ or as immigrants, refugees or forcibly displaced. Membership in Main Street America is not required to be eligible for the Program, but businesses must have a "bricks-and-mortar" location and operate in an older or historic main street, downtown, or commercial district in the United States. Find additional eligibility requirements and other details on the first grant cycle below.

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.
  • Other professional services, such as business plan modifications.
  • Rent, payroll, and other operating expenses.

What types of businesses are eligible?
Businesses must meet the following criteria to apply:

  • The business must be at least 51% owned, operated, and controlled by small business owners who identify as Native or Indigenous, Hispanic or Latinx, LGBTQ+ or as immigrants, refugees or forcibly displaced.
  • 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 United States or U.S. territories—businesses in strip malls, residences, and shopping malls are not eligible for this grant program.
  • 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, 2021.
  • The applicant is an owner of the business and is 18 years of age or older. 

How to Apply.
The application begins below. It should take about 15-20 minutes to populate this form. As you work through it, the application will auto-save.

Please review the application questions in advance and keep a separate record of your answers, as your work will not be saved on the form prior to submission. We cannot accept changes to your application once it has been submitted, so please review it carefully. All non-public business and financial information provided in the application will be kept confidential.

Finalists considered for an award may be contacted by Main Street America for additional information, including financial statements, before being selected as a recipient.

All applications will be judged based on:

  • Feasibility of proposal.
  • Extent to which grant will help address an acute business need or help a business owner implement innovative solutions to address COVID-19-related challenges.
  • Opportunity for other businesses to learn from work.
  • How the Inclusive Backing grant will help improve the viability of business.
  • The business’s commitment to giving back to their community.

Program Timeline.
Cycle 4: Priority given to small business owners who identify as Native or Indigenous, Hispanic or Latinx, LGBTQ+ or as immigrants, refugees or forcibly displaced.

  • Application Opens: May 31, 2022, at 9am CT.
  • Application Closes: June 30, 2022, at 11:59pm CT.
  • All applicants notified via email in late August 2022.

Small Business Resources.
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.

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.

Read grant FAQs here. For other questions, email SmallBizGrant@savingplaces.org or call 312.610.5613 to leave a voice message. Please allow up to 2 business days for a response.

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