More than 200 Catholic dioceses received billions in funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, the taxpayer-backed rescue fund for bailing out businesses dying of Covid-19 shutdowns – reportedly more than any other applicant.
The 200-plus dioceses, and the churches and schools the Catholic Church operates under their names pulled down over $3 billion in taxpayer-funded aid from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), as part of the US coronavirus bailout of small businesses, according to an Associated Press (AP) investigative report published on Thursday.
The tidy sum puts the Church considerably ahead of its private-sector counterparts in terms of government aid received over the course of the pandemic. Certain the shutdowns would force them to use up the millions of dollars saved away for a rainy day, Roman Catholic dioceses such as that of Charlotte, North Carolina were quick to apply for emergency aid under the PPP. The diocese received a total of over $8 million, despite the tidy nest egg of $100 million in cash and short-term investments it was sitting on.
Indeed, the AP found dozens of Catholic dioceses were lavished with PPP cash, even while holding onto their own emergency assets, which amounted to over $10 billion in total. Financial statements from 112 dioceses whose records the AP was able to access, plus the schools and churches under their control, revealed that those particular dioceses collected over $1.5 billion in taxpayer-backed funding amid the pandemic. Most were found to be financially well-off to the point that they could cover six months or more of operating expenses, even if they received no new income.
Including all American dioceses, the Roman Catholic Church’s PPP haul was more than $3 billion, making the Church “perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the paycheck program,” according to the AP. The information was only revealed after several news organizations sued the Small Business Administration to release public records of how the PPP money had been distributed – something then-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was vehemently against.
While religious groups aren’t typically eligible for business-oriented bailouts, Congress busted open a loophole so faith-based groups and religious nonprofits could access PPP money. A second exemption was granted to larger Catholic dioceses, which often employ more than 500 workers, technically rendering them ineligible for the “small business” category.