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Biden Administration Smacked With Lawsuit For COVID Aid Discrimination

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


The Biden administration has been smacked with a lawsuit for allegedly interjecting racial and gender discrimination into its COVID relief policies.

“A conservative legal group filed a lawsuit against the Small Business Administration (SBA) on Wednesday, alleging that the agency prioritized restaurants owned by minorities and women when allocating funds from its COVID-19 relief package,” the Hill reported.

“The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed the lawsuit on behalf of Antonio Vitolo, the owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tenn., against U.S. Small Business Association Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman,” the report continued.

“The lawsuit claims that the SBA gave priority preference to restaurants owned by certain minorities and women while pushing aside white males and other minorities when administering the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the report added.

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The White House has argued that women and minorities have been hurt the most by the COVID pandemic, while not providing objective empirical evidence.

“Given the limited pot of funds, this puts white male applicants at significant risk that, by the time their applications are processed, the money will be gone,” the lawsuit states.

The program argues that “socially disadvantaged” people are “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities.”

“Groups presumed to be socially disadvantaged include: Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, including Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians; Asian Pacific Americans; and Subcontinent Asian Americans,” the AP reported.

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The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty called the program “unconstitutional,” and demanded the fund stop allocating money “without regard to the race or gender of the applicant.”

Below is the full press release from the

WILL REPRESENTS TENNESSEE RESTAURANT OWNER WHO WOULD BE ELIGIBLE FOR FUNDS, BUT FOR HIS RACE AND SEX

The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a Tennessee restaurant owner against the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) over race and gender discrimination in the administration of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion program authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The law requires the SBA to give priority preference to restaurants owned by certain minorities and women, while bumping white males and other minorities to the back of the line, for funds available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and only until they run out.

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WILL is asking for a temporary restraining order and injunction to halt the discrimination in the program. The case was filed in the Eastern District of Tennessee.

The Quotes: WILL President and General Counsel, Rick Esenberg, said, “Under the guise of pandemic relief, the American Rescue Plan Act enables the federal government to engage in illegal and unconstitutional race and sex discrimination. This is ugly, pernicious, and toxic. We will fight it wherever it shows up.”

Antonio Vitolo, owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill and plaintiff in the case, said, “I do not want special treatment. I just want to be treated equally under the law. I am opposed to race and sex discrimination, and I would hope my government lived up to the same principle.”

Background: The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, passed in March 2021, is President Joe Biden’s signature COVID-19 relief bill. But many of the law’s relief provisions include explicit race discrimination – like a farmer loan forgiveness program that excludes white people.

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund is another relief program that explicitly uses race and sex discrimination to award federal funds. The $28.6 billion fund, administered by the SBA, requires the federal agency to prioritize restaurants owned by women and minorities for the first 21 days. In practice, the SBA takes all applications and keeps shifting white male restaurant owners to the back of the line.

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The way the federal government is allocating COVID relief – in the farmer loan forgiveness program and Restaurant Revitalization Fund – is illegal and unconstitutional. Race and sex discrimination are not permitted under the law.

WILL’s Client: WILL represents Antonio Vitolo, the owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Roane County, Tennessee. Vitolo’s wife is Hispanic and owns 50% of the restaurant, but Jake’s Bar and Grill is not eligible for priority treatment because Vitolo is a white male. He applied for a grant on the first day the application opened, but the SBA will not process his application until all minority and female applications received during the first 21 days of the administration of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund are fulfilled. Vitolo may receive no COVID relief funds as a result.

WILL is asking the court for a temporary restraining order and injunction to halt the ongoing harm resulting from race and sex discrimination. Additionally, WILL is asking the court for a declaratory judgment that the administration of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is unconstitutional.

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