ALEXANDRIA, Va. (DC News Now) — A program Alexandria launched to help minority-owned businesses is ending before it even began. After a brief legal battle, the city is conceding, saying the program was unconstitutional.

The BIPOC Small Business Grant Program was announced by the city in January, and would have allowed for-profit small businesses in Alexandria with no more than 100 employees to have access to a pool of grants — as long as its ownership is at least 51% BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color).

The grants could be used for business operations, resiliency, or growth, and come in three tiers — up to $3,000; up to $5,000; and up to $7,000.

However, after the announcement, an Alexandria-based engineering firm Tridentis, LLC, filed suit in federal court, alleging the program is “blatantly illegal” and violates the 14th Amendment.

The suit even got the attention of Attorney General Jason Miyares. Virginia’s Solicitor General Andrew Ferguson penned a brief to the court, writing, “It is difficult to conceive a more blatant violation of the Equal Protection Clause than the City of Alexandria’s BIPOC Small Business Grant program.”

“The Commonwealth is always prepared to defend the right of all Virginians to be treated equally by their government irrespective of the color of their skin,” Miyares’ Spokeswoman Victoria LaCivita said in a statement to DC News Now.

“It’s just about politics,” said Kevin Harris, the founder of the Alexandria Minority Business Association. “It’s angering.”

Harris, who said he was looking forward to helping businesses access the grants, was supportive of the program.

“It’s one of those things trying to change some of the things that have happened historically to right some of those wrongs,” he said.

On Friday, the two sides reached an agreement, saying the city’s original proposed use of race in its BIPOC grant program did violate the 14th Amendment.

However, while the program that was initially launched is done, the city said its efforts to help those businesses are still ongoing.

“We will review options to use this funding to meet the needs of our diverse small business community in a more comprehensive and sustainable way, and look forward to launching a program that achieves that goal,” the city wrote in a statement. “Our City remains committed to serving all Alexandrians and focused on our responsibility to find equitable solutions to address the challenges they face.”

Harris hopes the city re-invests the money, and maybe even increases the amount for the businesses “so that a message can be sent to those individuals who feel like they can hinder the progress of people of color.”

One of the reasons Harris said he liked the program was because it helped businesses that might not have received help during the height of the pandemic.

According to public records from the U.S. Small Business Association, Tridentis, LLC, received two grants during the pandemic.

In the suit, the plaintiff alleged he wanted to apply for this program but “is excluded because its owner is the wrong race.”