Small business owner challenges Oregon’s race-based Covid relief program

Earlier this year, in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Oregon Legislature established a $62 million relief fund that’s only available to individuals and business owners who “self-identify as Black.” These public funds are not available to Hispanic, Asian-American, Native American, or White business owners or individuals.

This blatant racially discriminatory scheme cried out to be challenged as unconstitutional. Sure enough, it is now being challenged.

The plaintiff is Great Northern Resources, Inc., a small family-owned logging business that has suffered financially because of the pandemic. Its owner is white, and thus the business is ineligible to receive any of the public funds granted by the Oregon Legislature.

In its suit, Great Northern Resources asserts that by distributing government benefits on the basis of race, Oregon has violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. To me, this seems self evident.

Great Northern Resources is being represented by the Project on Fair Representation. Edward Blum is the president of this organization. His name will be familiar to some readers because he’s also president of Students for Fair Admissions, the organization that sued Harvard over its race-based undergraduate admissions policy and recently moved to intervene in the Justice Department’s similar action against Yale.

Regarding the Oregon case, Blum stated:

The Oregon Legislature’s grant program for black-only businesses is a shameful violation of the U.S. Constitution. Relief programs for hard-hit small businesses in Oregon should be available to all owners, regardless of their race or ethnicity.

We have asked the courts to immediately freeze this unlawful program and that no additional state money be distributed until the program is expanded to all Oregonians, regardless of their skin color or ethnic heritage.

The Complaint filed by Great Northern Resources is available here.

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