ALEXANDRIA, Va. (TND) — A small business grant program in Alexandria, Virginia, intended to benefit people of color has been delayed amid legal action from a local engineering firm.
The city announced the delay of the "BIPOC Small Business Grant Program" Monday following a lawsuit that was filed Sunday, alleging the program gave money to businesses based on their owners' skin color.
According to the program's website, the grant is intended to support "BIPOC-owned" businesses, particularly those that it says have faced disproportionate hardships during the pandemic. The grant would also support hopeful business owners in the area belonging to the same Black, Indigenous and people of color populations.
This program is blatantly illegal," the lawsuit against the City of Alexandria filed on behalf of Tridentis, LLC argues. "The Equal Protection Clause prohibits Alexandria from discriminating based on race, and this express racial exclusion cannot possibly satisfy strict scrutiny. [Tridentis, LLC], a business in Alexandria who wants to apply for the program but is excluded because its owner is the wrong race, is entitled to relief."
The city issued a response concerning the delay of the grant program, indicating it will provide additional updates on the status of the program when it is able.
We are currently reviewing the details of the lawsuit challenging the BIPOC Small Business Grant Program. The suit was filed in Federal Court and details can be found through the PACER resource," the city said in a statement. "As we evaluate the lawsuit, the Program will be put on hold. However, we want to reiterate the City is committed to serving all Alexandrians; we also remain focused on our responsibility to find equitable solutions that address the needs of our diverse small business community."
The program was ready to begin sending out applications for the small business grant program on Jan. 26, which was approved by the city council in October.
The lawsuit's plaintiff, Tridentis, LLC, is a professional engineering, logistics and program management firm that often contracts with the government. The firm is being represented by Bryan Weir of Consovoy McCarthy PLLC.
Tridentis and its attorneys are asking for, among other things, a permanent injunction prohibiting the City of Alexandria from enforcing racially discriminatory eligibility criteria for the small business grant program.