Alexandria ends grant program for minority-owned businesses amid federal lawsuit

The city of Alexandria, Virginia, is ending its BIPOC Small Business Grant Program, which was created to offer financial help to minority-owned businesses. The move comes after a lawsuit was filed by Tridentis LLC in January over the program.

“Upon review of the lawsuit and the program, we have decided we will not launch the program as currently proposed,” the city said in a statement posted to its website.

The city said it will instead review its options when it comes to ways the money once earmarked for the program can be used to help the city’s “diverse small business community.”

In court documents, the defense contracting company that filed the lawsuit contended that the program violated the 14th amendment, because it excluded Tridentis owner David Jochum, who is white, from being in the running for grant money. To be eligible, businesses were required to have at least 51% BIPOC ownership. BIPOC stands for Black Indigenous People of Color.

“This program is blatantly illegal,” the lawsuit stated.

The company’s lawsuit also received the support of Virginia’s Republican Attorney General, Jason Miyares, whose office filed an amicus brief with the court.

“According to the City, White Alexandrians and Alexandrians of Arab or Middle Eastern descent need not apply,” the brief stated.

The plaintiff in the case also sought a temporary restraining order to pause the program, but that was denied by the judge.

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told WTOP that he cannot speak on the case itself, but did say the city remains focused on addressing inequities that face small businesses, especially businesses owned by women and minorities, when it comes to access to capital.

“I think we’re committed in Alexandria to being very intentional about addressing some of those inequities and we’ll work within the law and make sure that we do the right thing and design programs that are going to address those, those needs,” Wilson said.

WTOP reached out to Tridentis’ attorney Gilbert Dickey for comment about the city’s decision.

It is unclear if the lawsuit will be dropped now that the grant program has been ended.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up