Earlier this month President Elizabeth Gore and CEO Carolyn Rodz shared details of a recent Hello Alice lawsuit filed against them for a Black business grant offered to Black business owners earlier this year. The lawsuit is part of a wider campaign by conservative organizations to push back against the recent arc toward diversity and equity measures in corporate decision making, and could wind up as a test case on this lightning-rod topic.
In August, American First League filed the suit. The complaint accuses Progressive Insurance’s Driving Small Business Forward fund program of unlawful discrimination because non-Black owned small businesses were not allowed to apply.
According to the lawsuit, Nathan Roberts, a small business owner allegedly received an email with details of the small business grant from the company. However, Roberts claims he was not aware that the grant was for an underserved community.
As Roberts began filling out the application he realized the grant was for the underserved community. Overall disqualifying him from the grant.
During a post o social media President Elizabeth Gore addressed the Hello Alice lawsuit.
“The activists at AFL (America First Legal) are using their lawsuit against Hello Alice to support their efforts to fundraise.” She continued, “Our values are not ‘gentle-sounding euphemisms.’ These are the pillars upon which we built Hello Alice and guide our mission to drive capital, connections, and opportunities into the hands of small businesses of all types and backgrounds.”
CEO Carolyn Rodz also weighed in on the Hello Alice lawsuit.
“We’re not the first to be targeted. Legal actions have been made against programs benefiting Native American, Latino, and Black small business owners, even pulling funding from U.S. Veterans.” She continued, “but as one of the largest and most diverse groups of small business owners, Hello Alice has a unique opportunity to show that our unified entrepreneur ecosystem sticks together to ensure all entrepreneurs can access capital. We will fight to win this case and we are going to keep doing what we do best.”
As of now the court placed an Order on Motion to appear pro hac vice.
America First Legal vice president and general counsel Gene Hamilton said in a statement on the America First Legal’s website that the grant program is “offensive to the American ideal.”
According to Nerd Wallet, and the Federal Reserve, 80.2% of white business owners receive at least a percentage of the funding they request from a bank, compared to 66.4% of BIPOC. Furthermore, the average loan size for small white-owned firms was over $30,000 higher than for small BIPOC-owned firms.