A federal appellate court on Thursday struck down a provision in President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill that discriminated against white restaurant owners as well as minorities from seemingly random countries.
Glenn Greenwald reported on his Substack that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the racial and gender preferences included in the law that provided priority funding to minority-owned small restaurants violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
“The specific provision struck down as part of the law’s $29 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund grant program for small, privately-owned restaurants struggling to meet payroll and rent due to the COVID crisis. The law, which was passed almost entirely by a party-line vote in March, grants priority status to restaurants that have 51% ownership or more composed of specific racial and ethnic groups as well as women. By effectively relegating struggling businesses owned by white males or ethnicities and nationalities excluded from a priority designation ‘to the back of the line,’ the COVID relief program, ruled the court by a 2-1 decision, ran afoul of core constitutional guarantees,” Greenwald wrote.
The Daily Wire’s Mairead McArdle reported earlier this month that the program required white, male restaurant owners to wait until applications for minority-owned restaurants were processed, a wait time of three weeks that would likely see the fund depleted.
Antonio Vitolo, the owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tennessee, filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s discriminatory program because of the wait.
“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.
As Greenwald noted, Vitolo owns 50% of the restaurant, while his wife, who is Hispanic, owns the other half. If his wife had owned 51% or more of the business, they would have received priority status for a grant, but since they equally own the business, and he’s white, they had to wait.
Like many restaurants, the Vitolos’ restaurant “struggled during the pandemic—it closed on weekdays and offered to-go orders on weekends. It lost workers and a considerable amount in sales,” the court wrote.
A district court judge initially rejected the Vitolos’ request to have their grant application considered without considering their race, but the appellate court ruled in their favor. The 6th Circuit ordered the federal government to halt “using these unconstitutional criteria when processing Antonio Vitolo’s application.”
“This case is about whether the government can allocate limited coronavirus relief funds based on the race and sex of the applicants. We hold that it cannot,” the court wrote.
Judge Amul Thapar, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to the appellate court and who wrote the majority opinion in this case, called out the government for its “scattershot approach” to determining who qualified as a “socially and economically disadvantaged” group.
“[I]ndividuals who trace their ancestry to Pakistan and India qualify for special treatment. But those from Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq do not. Those from China, Japan, and Hong Kong all qualify. But those from Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco do not,” he wrote.
Thapar was referencing the fact that under SBA regulations, a person is deemed “socially and economically disadvantaged” if they are “black, Hispanic, or Native American.” They are deemed presumptively disadvantaged as “Asian Pacific Americans” only “if they have origins from Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Japan, China (including Hong Kong), Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia (Kampuchea), Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, U.S. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (Republic of Palau), Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Samoa, Macao, Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu, or Nauru.” Meanwhile, for a person to qualify as “Subcontinent Asian Americans,” they “must have origins from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, the Maldives Islands, or Nepal.”
Those not in any of the above groups would have to wait three weeks to have their grant application considered.