Alexandria, Virginia — For over a decade, Cameron Cafe in Alexandria has been a community staple. Her owner, Dayan Worku, has managed to survive the pandemic, but she understands that like many other small businesses in the city, they struggle to make ends meet.
Worku joined numerous minority-owned businesses in Alexandria interested in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) small business grant program. The grant secured $250,000 for eligible business owners.
“While many businesses have struggled and are still recovering after the COVID-19 pandemic, these difficulties have resulted from structural barriers and discriminatory financial and lending practices, particularly for Black, Indigenous and Colored people. Felt by a company owned by Species (“BIPOC”). ‘ said the city of Alexandria in a statement announcing the program.
Qualified and excited about the opportunity, Worku wanted to replace the old equipment.
“We could definitely use the funds,” said Worku. “Some companies are really struggling.”
A few miles down the street, Aesha Ray of Envy Us Beauty Supply wanted to use her money to grow her business. In October 2018, she opened the shop due to the need for business in her community.
She had to think creatively to survive during the pandemic, which unlike other companies had no support from the city or federal government.
“I was in fight-or-flight mode because I was doing everything I could to save the business,” Ray said. It felt like there were a lot of companies that received funding that didn’t suffer in a way.”
This program offers grants between $1,000 and $7,000.
But before the city could begin the application process, a local company called Tridentis, LLC filed a federal lawsuit. The suit claimed the program was racist and violated the 14th Amendment.
Caucasian owners say the Tridentis met all criteria other than skin color.
“This program is clearly illegal,” the lawsuit read.
On February 13, during the lawsuit, the city decided to end the program.
“After reviewing the lawsuit and the program, we have decided not to start the program as currently proposed,” the statement said. We look forward to starting a program that will reach that goal in a more inclusive and sustainable way. ”
It was a disappointing and disappointing decision for Worku and Ray.
“Please understand that as undervalued business owners, we work hard and make a lot of sacrifices to bring our business to the public,” Ray said.
About a month after the decision to halt the launch, city councilor Aria Gaskins said business owners were still calling and wondering about the future of the funds.
The mayor recently proposed an additional $500,000 in resources to support diverse businesses, assembled an internal team to reassess standards and grant sizes, and made other similar programs in place nationwide. was analyzed.
“We want to ensure that all the resources we put into the program go towards it, and that remains our focus,” Gaskins said. As such, we must ensure that the necessary due diligence is carried out.”
“What we wanted to do was serve businesses, and we had to step back and find the best way to do that,” she added.
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