SAN ANTONIO – Data from the Small Business Administration shows that at least 46 Texas churches received $1 million or more in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.
The federal program, known as PPP, was designed as an incentive for small businesses to keep workers on the payroll after the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic which shuttered doors to businesses around the world.
The taxpayer-funded program has faced criticism, however, after many small, minority-owned businesses say they were denied loans “while larger enterprises like the Los Angeles Lakers and Shake Shack were awarded millions in loans,” Vox.com reported. Questions about enforcement and relatively broad eligibility requirements have swirled this year.
The Code of Federal Regulations explicitly states that nonprofit entities are ineligible for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, however, the “CARES Act explicitly makes nonprofit entities eligible for the PPP program and it does so without regard to whether nonprofit entities provide secular social services,” according to the SBA.
Like other nonprofits, churches are exempt from paying many taxes, leading many on social media to criticize megachurches for obtaining the loans. Most recently, Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch made headlines after it was reported that Lakewood Church received $4.4 million in federal PPP loans.
Osteen’s church defended it’s loan, saying that Osteen, who is worth millions, did not receive any personal benefit and that hundreds of its employees have been receiving “full salaries and benefits including health insurance coverage to all of its employees and their families” because of the program.
Churches and religious organizations, like other charitable organizations, receive certain exemptions from federal, state and local income taxes, under Section 501(c)(3), according to the IRS.
Of the 46 churches KSAT found in data provided by the SBA, nine received somewhere between $2-5 million in PPP loans, including seven in the Houston area. The other two churches to receive $2 million or more are located in Dallas and Rockwall. (See the full list at the bottom of this article.)
In San Antonio, the Catholic Archdiocese and Catholic Charities each received PPP loans between $1-2 million along with Concordia Lutheran Church and Oak Hills Church.
At least one of the criteria of eligibility for a PPP loan is that an entity must have “500 or fewer employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States or are a business that operates in a certain industry and meet the applicable SBA employee-based size standards for that industry,” according to the Federal Register. In order to have the loan fully forgiven, the PPP loan must be used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities.
Concordia Lutheran Church located at 16801 Huebner Road reported that 100 jobs would be affected by the PPP loan and Oak Hills Church on Camp Bullis Road reported 141 jobs.
Catholic Archdioceses applied separately from Catholic Charities and the city’s Catholic schools. Central Catholic High School, a Catholic school in San Antonio received more than $1 million in loans but we did not include it in our list of churches.
When KSAT compiled a list of the most notable San Antonio entities that requested PPP loans, the Archdiocese of San Antonio and other Catholic entities combined topped the list, receiving somewhere between $2-5 million in loans.
A CBS report from May also notes that more than 12,000 Catholic churches in the U.S. applied for PPP loans – and 9,000 got them.
Additionally, the Associated Press reported in July that the U.S. Roman Catholic Church “used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, with many millions going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.”
Below are some of the criticisms by Twitter users:
Churches don't pay taxes, they shouldn't be given tax dollars.— Alex Cole (@acnewsitics) December 17, 2020
As of Aug. 8, the deadline to submit an application for a PPP loan, more than 5 million loans were approved as part of the Paycheck Protection Program with more than $525 billion given to businesses and other entities, according to the SBA. The average loan size is $100,729.
KSAT compiled a list of Texas churches that received loans between $1-5 million.
The churches that received more than $2 million are: Chapelwood United Methodist Church in Houston, First Baptist Church of Dallas (led by Robert Jeffress), Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, First Baptist Church of Houston, Lake Pointe Baptist Church in Rockwall, Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church of Houston and St. Martin’s Episcopal Church of Houston.
The following list only includes faith-based organizations that have “church” or “archdiocese” in their names:
Editor’s Note: This story initially stated at least 50 churches in Texas received more than $1 million in loans. In fact, it was about 46 churches.