Lawsuit Challenging Constitutionality of Race-Based Covid-19 Relief Program

Today, the Project on Fair Representation announces it will provide counsel to Great Northern Resources, Inc. in a challenge to the constitutionality of the State of Oregon’s use of strict race-based criteria for grants to businesses and individuals that have been adversely affected by Covid-19.

The case is styled Great Northern Resources, Inc. v Coba 3:20-cv-01866-IM.

Earlier this year, the Oregon Legislature established a $62 million relief fund from the “Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency Fund” which is only available to individuals and business owners who “self-identify as Black.”

Thus, these public funds are not available to Hispanic, Asian-American, Native American or white business owners or individuals because of their race or ethnicity.

The plaintiff is Great Northern Resources, Inc., a small family-owned logging business that has suffered financially because of the pandemic. The owner of Great Northern Resources is white, and thus ineligible to receive any of the public funds granted by the Oregon Legislature. Great Northern Resources, Inc. asserts that this program is unconstitutional. By distributing government benefits on the basis of race, Oregon has violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Edward Blum, president of the Project on Fair Representation, said, “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.”

Blum continued, “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 Project on Fair Representation (POFR) is a nonprofit legal foundation based in Arlington, Virginia. The mission of POFR is to challenge in state and federal courts government distinctions and preferences made on the basis of race. Since 2009, POFR has had five cases argued before the U.S. Supreme Court including Shelby Co. Ala v. HolderAbigail Fisher v. Univ. of Texas and Evenwel v. Abbott.

Read the full Press Release here.

Read the complaint here.