News & Politics

Lawsuit Alleges Racism in Biden Administration's COVID Relief for Restaurants and Bars

AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty has filed suit in federal court on behalf of a Tennessee bar and grill owner from Harriman alleging discrimination against white people in pandemic aid.

Antonio Vitolo, the owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill, is suing Small Business Administration administrator Isabella Casillas. Guzman says the SBA is giving preference to restaurants and bars owned by women and minorities for COVID relief funds.

The Biden administration has just authorized a $28.6 billion bailout of the restaurant industry, with aid going exclusively to “priority groups” — businesses run by women, veterans, or “socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.” Vitolo claims that when he applied for aid on May 3 he was told he didn’t qualify because he was white.

New York Post:

It claims the distinctions are unconstitutional and calls on the administration to halt the payments until an equitable system is in place for distributing them, like first-come, first-served.

“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 says.

The Biden administration is well within the law to “favor” minorities in the disbursement of relief funds. But denying someone aid based solely on their race is unconstitutional.

Vitolo’s Hispanic wife owns half the business, but she, too, is ineligible for aid. To qualify, she would have to own 51 percent of the business.

“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,” Vitolo said in a press release.

Fox 17:

The program relies on a definition of “socially disadvantaged” that is limited to people “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 Small Business Administration has been using “minority set-asides” to fund new start-ups from women and blacks for decades. These are dedicated funds “set aside” exclusively for those groups.

But the COVID relief funds are supposed to be for all races. The Biden administration has put women and minorities at the front of the line. Their applications will be considered before any applications from white business owners. In a word, it’s unfair and the Biden administration should be held to account for it.