HOUSTON – Joel Osteen, the pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston, has come under fire in recent days after Houston Chronicle reported that the megachurch received $4.4 million in PPP loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Federal Paycheck Protection Program Loan data provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) indicates that the loan given to Lakewood Church is the third-largest for any Houston-area business or nonprofit.
The data shows that Lakewood Church applied for the loan on July 21 and that 368 jobs would be affected by the loan.
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.
Osteen’s Lakewood Church and other megachurches have been criticized by some for taking part in the federal recovery program because of their tax-exempt status.
They don't pay taxes. They demand special exemptions from laws. They demand we all conform to their dogma. All the while raking in the dough and whining about perpetual "persecution".— CrabDiving Podcast (@CrabDiving) December 15, 2020
Religion is quite a racket.https://t.co/aNujo0oRRW#TaxChurches #JoelOsteen
David Iloff, a spokesperson for Lakewood Church, provided the following statement to KPRC regarding the loan:
Lakewood Church, our 368 full and part time employees and their families are grateful for the Payroll Protection Program during these uncertain economic times caused by the COVID 19 pandemic.
Lakewood suspended its in-person services for more than seven months (March 15th though October 18, 2020), impacting its ability to collect substantial donations during those services. Believing the shutdown would only last a few weeks, Lakewood did not initially accept PPP assistance during the first half of the program. However, as the shutdown persisted month after month, given the economic uncertainty, Lakewood finally applied for the PPP loan and has been able to provide full salaries and benefits including health insurance coverage to all of its employees and their families.
It is important to note that, since 2004, Pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen have not received salaries from Lakewood Church, and the PPP funds do not provide any personal financial benefit to them, whatsoever.
As of Aug. 8, more than 5 million PPP 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.
Osteen’s net worth is estimated to be north of $40 million, making him one of the richest pastors in the world. According to Money Inc. he has released 14 books which makes up the majority of his wealth. And while he doesn’t take the $200,000 salary he’s entitled to as a pastor at Lakewood, he makes money giving speeches, among other things.