I-Team 8

Lawsuit keeps minority-owned businesses from getting pandemic financial relief

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Diana Bryson is one of nearly 3,000 minority-group small businesses who will not receive pandemic financial relief due to an injunction against the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The owner of Tilly’s Pub in Indianapolis said, “I did everything I was supposed to, and now I’m not going to get it.”

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund, worth over $27 billion, prioritizes bar and restaurants owned by women, veterans and minorities. Bryson says she qualified and was approved to receive nearly $153,000 to help stay afloat.

“I am down 65% from 2019 to 2020,” she said. “The playing field of which women are viewed if they’re strong, and men that are viewed if they’re strong, are not equal, and that gap needs to be closed.” 

However, three lawsuits filed by a conservative legal group founded by Stephen Miller and Mark Meadows, aides to former President Donald Trump, represent white, small-business owners in Texas and Tennessee who say the prioritization of the fund is discrimination.

The injunction from the Northern District of Texas Fort Worth Division says, “The Court concludes that Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction because Plaintiffs are experiencing race and sex discrimination at the hand of government officials and the evidence submitted by Plaintiffs indicates that the entire $28.6 billion in the RRF may be depleted before Plaintiffs’ applications can be considered for relief under the program.”

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund prioritizes minority groups for the first 21 days of the program. Due to the injunction, the federal Small Business Association is not sending out any relief payments.

In statement from the Small Business Administration, a spokesperson says, “While we cannot comment on the specifics of the litigation, it is the north star of the U.S. Small Business Administration to assist underserved small businesses, and we’ll continue to do so. We remain committed to doing everything we can to support disadvantaged businesses in getting the help they need to recover from this historic pandemic and restore livelihoods.”

While Bryson, a white, female owner, got another bank loan to help her in the meantime, owners of color historically have struggled. Data from the U.S. Federal Reserve shows Black business owners were rejected for loans at a rate twice as high as white business owners.

“What these people can’t see is economic influence and infrastructure is always good for everybody,” said Anita Williams, a board member with Indy Black Chamber of Commerce. “They usually understand economics, and money coming into any city is good for everybody in that city.”

Bryson says, despite the obstacles, she will never give up fighting for her business.

“This is home to many people, not just me. You know, the people that come in here are good people, this is their second home,” she says. “But it’s been too long. And I can’t make my money stretch any further.”

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