Suit challenges priority of restoration aid for women and minorities | Texas


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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) – A conservative legal group on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s administration for prioritizing women-owned and certain minority restaurants and bars in its COVID relief program- 19, claiming that white men were the back of the line “for help with their restaurants.

The lawsuit by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty targets the period from May 3 to 24 when the $ 28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund will only process and fund claims from businesses owned by companies. women; Veterans; or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. Eligibility opens widely after this period.

Biden has previously said that women-owned and minority-owned businesses have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 economic crisis.

The lawsuit in United States District Court in eastern Tennessee names the administrator of the Small Business Association of the United States, Isabella Casillas Guzman, as the defendant.

Small Business Administration spokeswoman Carol R. WIlkerson said in an email that the agency was not commenting on the pending litigation.

The group brought an action on behalf of plaintiff Antonio Vitolo, owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tennessee. Vitolo immediately requested help on May 3, but cannot yet receive help because he is a white man, according to the lawsuit. The group argues that gender and racial distinctions are unconstitutional and seeks to immediately halt payments under the program until the government begins to treat them on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Given the limited amount of funds, this puts white male applicants at significant risk that by the time their applications are processed the money will disappear,” the lawsuit says.

The program is based on a definition of “socially disadvantaged” which is limited to those “subject to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural prejudice because of their identity as a member of a group regardless of their individual qualities”. Groups believed to be socially disadvantaged include: Black Americans, Hispanics Americans, Native Americans, including Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians; Asian Pacific Americans; and Asian Americans from the subcontinent.

For the $ 28.6 billion program, the Small Business Administration announced Wednesday that socially and economically disadvantaged women, veterans and business owners have requested $ 29 billion through more than 147,000 applications. Payments totaling $ 2.7 billion have already been sent to 21,000 restaurants, officials said.

Beyond just the initial priority groups, the administration said it received more than 266,000 requests in total, representing more than $ 65 billion.

Officials said the app portal will remain open as the administration still has potential funds for companies with 2019 annual revenue of $ 50,000 or less.

“The numbers show that we have been particularly successful in reaching smaller restaurants and underserved communities that have struggled to access relief,” Guzman, the administrator, said in a statement.

The program is expanding to other similar types of businesses that reach a threshold to eat and drink on site, from bakeries to breweries.

The US Department of Justice and a spokesperson for the Small Business Administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says Vitolo’s wife is Hispanic and owns half the restaurant, but he is not yet eligible for payment. The law states that a business must be 51% owned by someone belonging to one of the priority groups to qualify for the first aid priority.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has also launched a lawsuit against the Biden administration on behalf of white Midwestern farmers for another part of the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief program, alleging last month that they cannot participate in a COVID-19 loan forgiveness program because they are white.

Under the Biden Restaurant Relief Program, restaurants and bars are eligible for grants equal to their lost revenue from the pandemic, with a cap of $ 10 million per business and $ 5 million per location. .

The program set aside $ 9.5 billion for smaller restaurants and bars, and a third of the claims were filed by companies with annual pre-pandemic revenues of less than $ 500,000.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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