Colorado governor sued over race-based COVID-19 relief aid

December 9, 2020 GMT

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado Springs barbershop owner has sued the governor in relation to roughly $4 million in coronavirus relief designated for minority-owned small businesses, claiming the funding is unconstitutional and the race-based requirement should be removed.

Locals Barbershop owner Etienne Hardre, who is white, filed the lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, the state minority business office and its director. Hardre argued that the aid intended for businesses that are at least 51% minority-owned is based entirely on race and is discriminatory, The Denver Post reported.


“The Supreme Court has held that if you are going to do race-conscious measures, you are required to specify the past or present discrimination you are remedying,” Hardre’s attorney Michael Kuhn said. “And societal, so-called systemic racism isn’t sufficient.”

The Colorado governor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment from the AP about the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said Hardre lost a third of his barbershop’s revenue during the pandemic, but since he is white, he can’t receive the aid designated for minority-owned businesses.

“We have nothing against minorities, minorities are fantastic,” Hardre said. “However, everybody, all Americans, all Coloradans have been hurt. Business owners of all kinds, whites as well as minorities.”

The lawsuit seeks to remove the race-based requirement from qualifying for the aid, which is part of a larger $57 million package designated for small businesses and arts organizations. To qualify, businesses must follow COVID-19 safety restrictions.

Studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.