The Trump administration issued an update to the Paycheck Protection Program this week that forgives the loans of businesses that received up to $50,000 amid the coronavirus pandemic, even if those businesses ignored the rules and fired employees or cut wages.
Larger businesses with smaller affiliates that received loans are eligible to have up to $2 million forgiven, and this is the category into which churches fall.
However, American Atheists noted that churches are exempted from the $2 million cap, meaning that “substantially larger religious organizations with many small affiliates will be able to take government funding and receive loan forgiveness even if they violate the one requirement of the program: not firing workers.”
“With this religious exemption, Catholic churches may have broken PPP rules, fired workers, and yet their loans will still be forgiven,” said Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy at American Atheists. “The Small Business Administration is putting religious organizations before workers. They should not receive a special privilege to fire workers merely because they are religious.”
In June, American Atheists launched an investigation into the church bailouts and in July determined that houses of worship received between $6.2 and $9.7 billion at a minimum. The U.S. Catholic Church alone took in between $1.4 and $3.5 billion.
“SBA has not only allowed massive, wealthy religious organizations like the Catholic Church to receive billions in taxpayer dollars but also is now letting them break the rules and still fill their coffers. It’s morally reprehensible,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists.