Judge denies injunction for Black Oregonians relief fund
The $62 million fund offering COVID-19 relief to Black Oregonians will continue to operate as usual after a federal judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order that would have halted the distribution of dollars.
District of Oregon federal judge Karin J. Immergut ruled Friday, Nov. 20, that Great Northern Resources — a small logging outfit in John Day — had not shown irreparable harm after its application to the Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency was denied because its owner is white.
"To the extent Plaintiff now asserts the harm is ongoing and likely to recur because the Federal government may approve more Coronavirus funding for the states," Immergut wrote, "that harm is entirely too speculative to justify a preliminary injunction."
The ruling means the relief fund likely will spend down the federal money allocated to it by state lawmakers by the end of the year — well before a final resolution to the case is likely.
The lawsuit was filed in late October on behalf of logging company president Tad Houpt, who had helped organize meetings for the occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, OPB reported in 2017.
The suit — which alleges the COVID fund violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment — is funded by conservative legal strategist Edward Blum.
Coffee shop owner files second suit
Also Nov. 20, a prominent Portland coffee shop owner launched the second known suit targeting the state COVID relief fund reserved only for Black Oregonians.
Maria Garcia — proprietor of the downtown cafe Revolución Coffee House, and a 2018 candidate for the Multnomah County Commission — alleges she suffered discriminatory harm in violation of the Civil Rights Act after she applied for an Oregon CARES grant in August but never heard back.
"Plaintiff is qualified to receive a grant from the Fund and would have received one but for the fact that its owner is Mexican American," according to the eight-page complaint.
Garcia's cafe sells imported Mexican coffee, but has faced dramatic revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the restaurant closing for three months beginning in March and several workers laid off, per the suit. The business reopened briefly this summer but has not reopened since August.
On social media, Garcia wrote that she was a former president of nonprofit Don't Shoot Portland and supports Black businesses, but says the government should not exclude Latino community members who make up 13% of Oregon's population. She said Don't Shoot Portland was not involved in the suit and did not have prior knowledge of it.
"This lawsuit is not anti-Black or pro-Latino," Garcia wrote. "This is not a fight about who deserves more or less but a lección (lesson) for our elected officials that the state has to be inclusive in all its decisions and offer equal opportunities to access funds."
Her Facebook post received 46 comments, essentially all of them negative.
"I'll be honest, a Latina-Owned Business suing the state for Oregon's Black CARES fund is despicable and flat out wrong," wrote Metro Deputy Council President Juan Carlos González.
Lawyers from the Center for Individual Rights will represent Cocina Cultura LLC in the case. Judge Stacie F. Beckerman is presiding.
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