Inclusive Backing

Backing Small Businesses

As small businesses continue to feel the impact of the pandemic, many still need support to 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 has partnered with Main Street America on a $1.65M year-round program called Inclusive Backing. This program builds on American Express’ ongoing Backing Small initiative to provide economically vulnerable small businesses with financial support and 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 businesses located 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 LGBTQIA+ community, people with disabilities, veterans, and women.

Applications for the third grant cycle are now closed. Check back for updates on the fourth cycle in June.
Main Street America membership is not required to be eligible for the Program. Find additional eligibility requirements and other details on the grants below.

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 women, nonbinary people, and/or Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
  • 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—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 Jan. 1, 2021.
  • The applicant is an owner of the business and is 18 years of age or older.

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

Program Timeline

Cycle 1: Provided grants to both small business owners with disabilities and/or those who identify as Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander. Learn about the recipients here.

Cycle 2: Provided grants to personal services businesses. Learn about the recipients here.

Cycle 3: Will provide grants to to businesses owned by women, nonbinary people, and Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Application is now closed. All applicants will be notified via email by June 2022.

Cycle 4: Stay tuned for more information regarding Cycle 4 coming in June 2022.

Community Partners



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:

Small Business Resources

Inclusive Backing is one of many new, Backing Small programs American Express has launched to support small businesses - including the Coalition to Back Black Businesses and Backing Historic Small RestaurantsMore information and resources about American Express’ support for minority-owned 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.