A federal judge in Texas this week blocked the Biden administration from prioritizing grants in a COVID-19 restaurant relief program by their race or gender.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, a George W. Bush nominee, said he believes plaintiff Philip Greer, a cafe owner, is likely to succeed in his lawsuit against the Small Business Association (SBA) as he granted a request for a temporary restraining order (TRO).
“Based on the record, Greer is ‘able and ready’ to apply; he has prepared an application on behalf of his restaurant and is otherwise eligible to receive an RRF grant, but for the allegedly unconstitutional prioritization scheme preventing his application from being processed,” O’Connor said in his 18-page decision.
If Greer’s lawsuit is ultimately won, then there’s a substantial likelihood that he could receive a portion of the funds from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, a $28.6 billion pool created by the latest COVID-19 relief package, the judge added.
At issue is the fact the package directs the Biden administration to prioritize restaurants that are owned and controlled by women, veterans, and people deemed “socially and economically disadvantaged,” which includes those owned at least 51 percent by some Indian tribes or Native Hawaiian organizations.
The SBA, which is deciding among applicants, announced that it would accept applications from all eligible applicants but only process those from a “priority group” in the first 21 days.
Greer argued that the policy actively excludes entire classes of Americans not mentioned in the “priority” group who are also suffering significant financial losses caused by the pandemic.
“The Small Business Administration lurches America dangerously backward, reversing the clock on American progress, and violating our most sacred and revered principles by actively and invidiously discriminating against American citizens solely based upon their race and sex. This is illegal, it is unconstitutional, it is wrong, and it must stop,” his lawsuit states.
Attorneys for Isabella Guzman, the SBA’s administrator, asserted in a response to the motion for a TRO that Greer lacked standing because he didn’t actually submit an application for a grant. They also said he hadn’t suffered an injury that was traceable to the priority period.
The lawyers also argued the prioritizations adopted, while being “race-conscious,” don’t violate the constitutional guarantee of equal protection.
O’Connor, the judge, shot down those claims.
“The context is clear: the evidence that Greer’s restaurant lost nearly $100,000 in gross revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic and [his] attestation that he has prepared an application and is otherwise eligible are sufficient to suggest Plaintiffs’ ‘actual desire’ to apply for a monetary grant with the specific goal of supporting restaurants during the pandemic—like Greer’s,” he wrote.
An attorney for the Biden administration didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
Stephen Miller, president of America First Legal, which is representing the plaintiff, said in a statement: “The facts of the case are straightforward: hard-hit American restaurant owners can apply for urgently-needed pandemic relief. But the government puts some owners at the back of the line for access to a limited pool of money based on their race. So we are presented with a simple but vital question: can the government reward or punish American citizens based upon the color of their skin or the ancestry of their families?
“We all know the answer. Racial discrimination, in any form, is legally and morally wrong. It is un-American. It is unconscionable. And it must be stopped.”
The judge directed Greer to apply for a grant on or before May 19 while enjoining Guzman and the agency she oversees from prioritizing applicants based on their race or gender.
A hearing will be held on May 24 at 9 a.m. in the case.
Janita Kan contributed to this report.
Correction: A previous version of this article inaccurately described the temporary restraining order. It blocks the Biden administration from prioritizing applicants based on their race or gender. The Epoch Times regrets the error.