Small Business Owner Sues Over Grant Program Open To Everyone Except Straight White Men

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A former police officer filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging a Massachusetts COVID-19 relief program that restricts funding to business owners of specific races, sexes and sexual orientations.

Massachusetts’ “Inclusive Recovery Grant Program” offers up to $75,000 in relief to small businesses with minority, female, veteran, immigrant, first-generation immigrant, disabled or LGBTQ+ owners. Brian Dalton, a retired police officer who owns a firearms safety instruction company called the New England Firearms Academy, alleges this program violates Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by illegally excluding him because he is a white, heterosexual male, per the lawsuit.

“The government’s response [to COVID-19] nearly destroyed the business that he painstakingly built for himself and his family,” the complaint states. “He welcomes the opportunity to get back on track, but the Commonwealth won’t give him a fair shot.”

Though he meets all other financial, staffing and business standing requirements for relief, the program, which offers a total of $75 million in funding, excludes Dalton from relief based on race and sex, his lawsuit alleges. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: School District Violated Civil Rights Act By Hosting Race And Sex Based Student Group, Complaint Alleges)

The program exists to “support small businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the website states. During COVID-19, the governor’s restrictions forced Dalton’s business to shut down for three months with no revenue, according to Pacific Legal Foundation’s press release.

“Opportunity — including eligibility for government programs — should not depend on skin color, sex, or sexual orientation,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Andrew Quinio, who is representing Dalton, in a statement. “Massachusetts’s discriminatory requirements for COVID-19 relief are unequivocally wrong and unlawful. Thankfully the Constitution protects hardworking business owners from the commonwealth’s discriminatory actions.”

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Massachusetts, names Secretary of Economic Development Yvonne Hao, the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation and its CEO Lawrence D. Andrews as defendants.

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Economic Development and Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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