The lawsuit alleges that the BIPOC Small Business Program, aimed at providing relief for black and non-white business owners from the effects of the pandemic, is “blatantly illegal” for excluding white owners.
Tridentis LLC, a local defense contractor, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, saying that it “wants to apply for the program but is excluded because the owner is the wrong race.”
Tridentis is owned by a white Alexandria resident, the lawsuit states.
“In other words, no whites allowed,” the lawsuit states. “This program is blatantly illegal.”
The $500,000 program planned to release the first round of applications Thursday, offering businesses up to $7,000 to help launch or support their small business. Businesses that did not receive funds from the Coronavirus Aid or American Recovery Plan Act would receive priority.
“While many businesses have struggled and are still recovering in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these hardships are particularly felt by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) owned businesses due to structural barriers and discriminatory practices,” per the program’s website
It would have been open from Jan. 26 to Feb. 10, with recipients announced in March and grants sent out in April.
“Businesses without 51% BIPOC ownership” would be excluded from this particular grant, per the website and lawsuit.
The city announced the program’s postponement in a tweet on Monday.
“Despite this delay, the City remains committed to supporting our minority small business community and promoting equity for all,” the city said.
Today, the City was served with a lawsuit challenging the BIPOC Small Business Grant Program. We are postponing the launch while we review the lawsuit. Despite this delay, the City remains committed to supporting our minority small business community and promoting equity for all.
— AlexandriaVAGov (@AlexandriaVAGov) January 24, 2023
Councilwoman Alyia Gaskins shared the city’s message and expressed her disappointment at the delay of the program on Twitter as well.
“My commitment to supporting our diverse businesses is unwavering,” Gaskins wrote. “Very disappointed to share this news.”
The grant program said in a statement to the Washington Examiner that it is reviewing the details of the lawsuit while the program is on hold.