American Express Details “Coalition to Back Black Businesses” Grant Program
This past week, American Express continued its efforts to support small businesses during these turbulent times. In this case, the company turned its attention to the Black community, helping to form the Coalition to Back Black Businesses Grant Program. The Coalition is a collaboration between four other organizations: the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Business League, the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., and Walker’s Legacy.
Amex’s $10 million commitment will help fund grants for Black-owned small businesses in the United States over the next four years. This will be accomplished by issuing grants of $5,000 each to more than 280 applicants each fall. To be eligible, small businesses must have between three and 20 employees and be located outside of the 20% most prosperous zip codes in the nation (as ranked by the Distressed Communities Index). Notably, businesses owned by women of color will receive special consideration, with the Coalition stating that at least 25% of grant recipients will be women.
Eligible businesses could apply to be considered for funds by visiting the Coalition to Back Black Businesses website, although the initial round of applications has now closed. Starting today, select businesses will be notified about completing a more in-depth application, which will be due on September 28th. A waitlist for additional applicants may also be created. According to the site, applications will be considered through October 9th, with grants being awarded on a rolling basis starting as early as October 6th.
The details of the Coalition to Back Black Businesses grant program comes after American Express previously announced a $200 million Shop Small campaign back in June — amounting to their largest small business intuitive to date. As part of the promotion, American Express cardholders were able to activate an offer, allowing them to earn a $5 statement credit when they made a purchase of $10 or more at an eligible small business. While these offers could be used up to 10 times, the program concluded earlier this week. However, the card company is still gearing up their Shop Small efforts as this year’s Small Business Saturday (which is celebrated the Saturday after Thanksgiving) nears.
Announcing the Coalition and the role it hopes to play, American Express Global Merchant & Network Services Group President said in a statement, “Small businesses play a crucial role in our communities, and when the pandemic hit, Black-owned small businesses were hit the hardest. The Coalition is aimed to provide eligible Black-owned small businesses with much-needed capital to help recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic and help them rebuild their businesses.” Additionally, leaders from several of the organizations involved commented on the program, with National Black Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Harry C. Alford stating, “This is going to create opportunity and in fact level the playing field for many of our members. Access to capital has always been the missing link in regard to small business growth – we are now about to address that.”
Even though the application window for this first round has closed, the Coalition to Back Black Businesses Grant Program could provide a great opportunity for Black entrepreneurs in the coming years. On top of that, with other cosponsors including Altice USA already joining in, there’s a good chance that the Coalition — and, in turn, its reach — could grow in the months ahead. While these grants may not be able to fix all of the problems that small business owners face, hopefully they can go a long way in helping them overcome current and future obstacles.