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Alexandria minority business groups decry lawsuit over grant funding

(Updated 2:30 p.m.) The recently formed Alexandria Minority Business Association (AMBA) shared frustrations about a lawsuit putting a planned grant program on hold.

The City of Alexandria approved a grant program aimed at benefiting Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) business owners. Applications were set to be released in the coming weeks, but a lawsuit has put those plans on hold.

The grant would have allocated $500,000 worth of funds ot businesses with at least 51% BIPOC ownership, with a maximum amount of $7,000 per recipient.

Earlier this week, engineering firm Tridentis, LLC filed a lawsuit against the City of Alexandria claiming the city is discriminating based on race. Tridentis is a military contractor based in Alexandria.

“This program is blatantly illegal,” the lawsuit claimed. “The Equal Protection Clause prohibits Alexandria from discriminating based on race, and this express racial exclusion cannot possibly satisfy strict scrutiny. Plaintiff, 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.”

Tridentis has received over $1 million in forgiven loans since early 2020.

Kevin Harris, founder of AMBA, called the lawsuit political theater, noting that the contractor donates thousands of dollars to right-wing politicians or groups every year.

“Tellingly, Tridentis has hired Consovoy McCarthy PLLC as their legal counsel for this suit.” said Harris. “I think that shows pretty clearly what their end-goal is.”

Pastor Lou Whiting, leader of the Social Responsibility Group (SRG), called the pause in the grant program disappointing.

“SRG is deeply disappointed that our City now faces this legal challenge in its efforts to address the compelling governmental interests of diversity, equity, and inclusion for members of their constituency that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life.” said Pastor Whiting. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential priorities for Alexandria and our entire nation. This lawsuit demonstrates our need for sustained action.”

https://twitter.com/AKSSInAlex/status/1618298038216445952

ALXnow reached out to a Tridentis phone number but recieved no response.

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