Tennessee restaurateur battles federal government over salvage funds | Tennessee

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(The Center Square) – A conservative, nonprofit Wisconsin law firm has appealed a decision by a federal judge in Tennessee that dismissed a temporary restraining order to end the prioritization of funds from recovery of restaurants in the event of a COVID-19 pandemic.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed the federal prosecution against the Small Business Administration (SBA) of the United States on behalf of Antonio Vitolo, owner of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman.

Vitolo has asked to receive federal relief from the $ 28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund established under the American Rescue Plan Act.

After applying for the funding, Vitolo learned that women and minority restaurant owners would be given priority during the first 21 days of fund disbursement, which began on May 3. disbursing funds until a decision is made, arguing that it was unfair that Vitolo did not have the same chance to receive funds as other similar business owners.

U.S. District Judge Travis McDonough of Knoxville spoke out against the restraining order last week, saying the government could justify prioritizing funds because “Congress had evidence before suggesting its program The initial COVID relief effort, the PPP, has failed disproportionately to reach the minority. minority-owned companies due (at least in part) to the historic lack of relationships between banks and minority-owned companies, itself a symptom of historic lending discrimination. “

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed a emergency call of McDonough’s decision.

Vitolo said he received an email from the SBA on May 7 stating that he had received 186,200 applications in the first two days, including 46,400 from women entrepreneurs and 30,800 from owners of restaurants owned by companies. minorities.

“Unless the defendant is immediately summoned, plaintiffs may never be able to recover from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund program if funds run out before the claim is processed,” said the appeal.

The Paycheck Protection Program was created last year with $ 349 billion in federally guaranteed loans for businesses. After significant interest in the program, an additional $ 310 billion was added to the fund.

However, a study presented to Congress showed that these funds were not evenly distributed.

“PPP loans weren’t administered the same way to all kinds of businesses,” McDonough’s decision reads. “A congressional investigation found that minority and female-owned businesses had more difficulty accessing P3 funds than other types of businesses.”

Vitolo said he received a communication from the SBA that, if approved, his company would receive $ 104,590 in relief funds. He is concerned, however, that these funds will not be available after the end of the initial 21-day priority period.

“Vitolo does not fit into any of these categories because he is not a woman, a veteran or a socially disadvantaged person because of his race,” the appeal read. “He would, however, be qualified as ‘economically disadvantaged’ without his race.”

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