CIR’s challenge to Oregon’s race-based COVID-relief fund drew to a successful close as CIR’s client Maria Garcia reached a favorable settlement. Maria Garcia owns a small coffee shop in downtown Portland. Last summer, the pandemic and months of lock downs hit her business hard. Garcia applied to the Oregon Cares Fund for assistance, but the Fund only made grants available to black residents, so it denied her request. In November, CIR sued Oregon for racial discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Recently, the Fund reached its statutory expiration. Because the Fund stopped issuing new grants, the court decided that there was nothing remaining to enjoin. The last remaining issue was the damages that the state owed to Garcia for its racial discrimination. The lengthy legal battle and costly settlements that Oregon has paid over its discriminatory fund will hopefully deter discriminatory programs in the future.