The coronavirus pandemic has placed an extraordinary toll on the Black community. The virus has become the third-leading cause of death for Black people and the economic fallout has had a disproportionate effect on Black people, as well. A program launched by American Express intends to alleviate some of the economic stress.
Fast Company reports Amex has joined forces with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to launch the “Coalition to Back Black Businesses.” The coalition intends to give out $10 million in grants over four years to help Black businesses recover from the pandemic. The coalition also includes the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Business League, the U.S. Black Chambers, and Walker’s Legacy.
The company initially announced the effort in June and has now released the requirements to apply for its first round of $5,000 grants. To be eligible for a grant, a business must be Black-owned, employ between 3-20 people full time, located in an economically vulnerable area, and have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
From Sept. 15-21, applicants can fill out a form on the site to express interest in a grant, with a group of finalists to be selected to fill out an application on Sept. 22. Following a brief review period, 280 businesses will be selected to receive a grant in October. Special consideration will be given to businesses owned by Black women, who are expected to make up 25 percent of grantees. The coalition will also mentor the business owners selected for the grants.
Black business owners were disproportionately shut out from the Paycheck Protection Program the U.S. government launched in April to provide relief to small businesses. As a result, nearly forty percent of Black business owners have had to permanently close their doors. In May, to help combat this problem, Magic Johnson launched a program to provide $100 million to Black business owners left behind by the program.