Coalition To Back Black Businesses

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for small businesses, and the Black community has been hit especially hard. The Coalition to Back Black Businesses is a multi-year initiative to support Black business owners and the communities they serve as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and chart a path forward.

Through the Coalition, American Express, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Business League, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., Walker’s Legacy, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, will worth together over the next four years to provide $10 million in grants, training, and resources to empower Black-owned small businesses in distressed communities – those that have long been struggling with economic growth.

From 2020-2023, we will distribute $5,000 grants to more than 250 applicants each fall. We hope these grants can provide some assistance to the Black-owned business community to emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.


What is the Coalition Back Black Businesses?

The Coalition to Back Black Businesses is a multi-year grantmaking and training initiative to help support Black-owned small businesses and the communities they serve as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and chart a path forward. The initiative will launch in Fall 2020 and provide grants to qualifying Black-owned businesses over the next four years.

Who is eligible to apply?

To apply, you must be an owner of a Black-owned small business (50% or more ownership of the business). You must have between 3-20 employees (including yourself, all full or part-time employees, and independent (1099) contractors). The business must also not be part of a franchise brand with more than twenty-five (25) corporate-owned stores, or more than two hundred and fifty (250) stores total.

In addition, the business must be located in an economically vulnerable community. This is defined as any zip code that is not in the top 20% of zip codes in the United States, as ranked by the Distressed Communities Index. An eligibility checker is available on the application website.

There are a few industries and business types that are not eligible to receive grants:

  • Any government agency, public administration, political organization, or non-profit of any type;
  • Businesses engaged in any illegal activity;
  • Gas stations, or businesses located on the same premises as a gas station;
  • Shopping property management companies;
  • Direct sellers;
  • Travel agencies;
  • Any business that is primarily in the business of manufacturing, promoting or selling diet aids, cannabis, gambling, tobacco (including tobacco-related equipment, such as e-cigarettes), firearms or other weapons;
  • Private clubs and businesses which limit the number of memberships for reasons other than capacity;
  • Businesses principally engaged in teaching, instructing, counseling or indoctrinating religion or religious beliefs, whether in a religious or secular setting;
  • Businesses which derive directly or indirectly more than de minimis gross revenue through the sale of products or services, or the presentation of any depictions or displays, of a sexual nature;
  • Businesses owned by employees, officers and directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, American Express, National Partners (National Black Chamber of Commerce, National Business League, Walker’s Legacy, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.), and any affiliated entities, and their respective immediate families (parents, spouse, children, siblings) or individuals residing in their household (whether or not related)
  • Entities listed on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Sanctions List.

How do I apply for a grant?

Eligible business owners can express their interest on this site from September 15, 2020 to September 21, 2020. Two hundred eighty business owners will be randomly selected as finalists to complete an application to be considered. The number of grants may fluctuate slightly based on available funding.

To express your interest, you will only need your business name, owner contact email, business zip code, and industry. You will also be asked if the business is women-owned and affiliated with any of the four national partners, and how it has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. This should take under one minute to complete. When you submit that information does not affect your chances at being selected as a finalist, as long as it is completed before 11:59 PM EDT on September 21, 2020 when the collection form is removed.

What do I need to apply for a grant?

If selected as a finalist, that application will take about 20 minutes to complete and will require your business W-9 form, Employee Identification Number (EIN), and other basic supporting information, including qualitative questions about your business. You will have one week to complete the finalist application once notified of your finalist status.

What is the Distressed Communities Index and why are some zip codes excluded from this grant?

The Distressed Communities Index is an established measure of the economic well-being of U.S. communities, developed by the Economic Innovation Group, and looks at a variety of economic measures including household economics, educational attainment, job and business growth. Just as some businesses face higher risks than other, some communities are more vulnerable. This grant program is dedicated to helping Black-owned small businesses in the communities that need that help the most.

How much is the grant?

Each grant is for $5,000. The grants are unrestricted but must be applied toward business expenses.

Following each round of awards, grantees will have the option to compete for $25,000 enhancement grants based on additional criteria as outlined below.

What is the selection process?

After September 21, 2020, each business that expressed their interest will be compter-assigned a random number and put in ascending order. Two hundred eighty business owners, based on available funding, will be selected as finalists and notified within two weeks. Additional applicants may be chosen for the waitlist and elevated to finalist if any of the initial 280 are deemed ineligible; they would be notified of their finalist status within three additional weeks.

Finalists will then have one week to complete a longer application that will be checked for grant eligibility and completion. Special consideration will be given to women-owned busineses, which will make up at least 25% of the awarded grants.

Each finalist that submits a complete application that meets all eligibility requirements will be notified of the grant award decisions within two weeks of completing the finalist application.

What are enhancement grants?

The Coalition to Back Black Businesses is dedicated to supporting the long-term success of Black-owned small businesses and the communities they serve. That;s why a select group of grantees will be eligible for $25,000 enhancement grants in the summer following the receipt of their $5,000 grant. Grantees must opt-in to be considered, and a panel of judges from the national partners will evaluate the businesses based on the following criteria:

  • The quality of responses provided in the finalist grant application
  • Additaional information from the post-grant survey
  • Supporting recommendations form mentors
  • Long-term viability of the business

When will grants be awarded?

The $5,000 grants will be awarded withing two weeks after finalists are notified of the outcome of their completed finalist application review. Once the grantee has been notified and submitted payment information that meets compliance checks, it will take an additional 6-9 busines days to process the payment and receive funds.

Besides the funding, what else is part of the grant program?

After funding is distributed, we will invite each of the grantees to participate in a mentorship program to help further grow their business. While participation in the mentorship program is voluntary, it is required to be considered for an enhancement grant. In addition, the Coalition to Back Black Businesses will continue to offer educational resources for small business owners on its online platforms.

If I am not selected, can I re-apply for the grant in the future?

Yes. Businesses that have not been slected to receive a grant are encouraged to submit an application in following years.

How is the grant program funded?

The grant program is made possible by the generosity of our founding partner, American Express, as well as financial support from Altice USA.

Who is administering the grant program?

The grant program is adminstered byu the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, in partnership with U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., National Business League, National Black Chamber of Commerce, and Walker’s Legacy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is a private sector 501(c)(3) charity affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is not a government agency.

I represent a company ro foundation that wants to financially support the initiative. How can I get involved?

Please send a not to to ask about joining the Coalition to Back Black Businesses.