News

Alexandria cancels grant program for minority-owned businesses after lawsuit

Alexandria has shelved a grant program aimed at helping minority business owners after a lawsuit claiming the program discriminated against white people.

The program’s cancelation was first reported by the Washington Post.

The program was designed to help Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) who owned businesses in Alexandria. Engineering firm Tridentis, LLC filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in January claiming the program was “blatantly illegal” and violated the Equal Protection Clause.

A statement on the program’s website said the program, as currently proposed, would not be launched:

Over the past several months, the City has worked to develop a grant program to meet the needs of our diverse small business community – an important foundation of Alexandria’s continued economic development. A lawsuit challenging the BIPOC small business grant program was filed in federal court in January. Upon review of the lawsuit and the program, we have decided we will not launch the program as currently proposed. Instead, we will review options to use this funding to meet the needs of our diverse small business community in a more comprehensive and sustainable way, and look forward to launching a program that achieves that goal. Our City remains committed to serving all Alexandrians and focused on our responsibility to find equitable solutions to address the challenges they face. More details will become available on the new program over the coming months.

The Washington Post reported that Alexandria officials admitted that the grant criteria as written was a violation of the 14th Amendment, but that the city would work to find other ways to help minority business owners disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.