In the case of Ultima Services Corp. v. US Department of Agriculture [USDA], Judge Clifton L. Corker has ruled that skin color alone does not qualify or disqualify eligibility for special treatment under the United States Small Business Association’s [SBA] 8(a) business development program.
The SBA 8(a) program qualifies companies for very lucrative preferential treatment in government contracts if the company is owned by a member of a “disadvantaged group.”
Ultima Services Corp argued that they were losing their contracts with the USDA because the owner had the wrong skin color to qualify for 8(a) preferential treatment.
Despite Ultima’s exemplary work, the USDA has decided to award administrative services contracts under Section 8(a) — a set-aside program that favors businesses owned by members of preferred racial and ethnic groups. Because Ms. Bennett does not belong to a preferred racial group, this decision has prevented Ultima from competing for these administrative services contracts, which make up the core of its business.
Adding insult to injury, the 8(a) companies that take over these contracts will retain the employees that Ultima recruited and trained. So all the hard work, time, and money that Ultima has invested in its contracts are now directly benefiting the 8(a) companies that replace it.
Business owners hoping to get preferential treatment under 8(a) will no longer be able to submit their skin color as “proof” of being disadvantaged. Under new guidance from the SBA, 8(a) applicants will be required to write an essay explaining the reasons they are disadvantaged.
Corker stated, “The determination of which groups of Americans are presumptively disadvantaged compared with others necessarily leads to such a determination being underinclusive because certain groups that could qualify will be left out of the presumption.”
While discrimination can be evidence of being disadvantaged, it only counts if the discrimination occurred in the USA. Applicants can not claim they were discriminated against in a foreign nation before they immigrated to America.
Under Corker’s ruling, a White man born to a poor family in Eastern Kentucky would not be automatically turned away for being White. Meanwhile, a Black man born to upper-middle-class government workers in Prince George’s County would not be automatically accepted for being Black.
Clifton L. Corker is a United States district judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee who Donald Trump appointed.