While the country’s attention is on early voting and the latest attempt by Republicans at Supreme Court hijacking, the Small Business Administration this week issued a short update that would forgive the loans of businesses that received under $50,000 as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The application simply asks people to confirm that the loans were used properly and to provide documentation of it. So if the money business owners received really did go toward payroll or overhead, there shouldn’t be an issue. That’s good!
Here’s the problem: The loan forgiveness applies even to businesses that fired employees or cut wages — which was one of the earlier conditions to even receive the loans. Also, larger businesses with smaller affiliates are eligible to have up to $2 million forgiven… but not only are churches eligible for that category, there’s no cap on how much they can be repaid.
In other words, a megachurch with satellite campuses, each of which received some PPP loans, could get well over $2 million forgiven even if they fired people. (A Catholic diocese could receive many multiples of that amount!)
“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.”
“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.
Right now, unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done to stop this. All groups like AA can do is make sure people are aware of how the government is rewarding religious groups. Make no mistake, at the end of the day, a lot of American churches just received billions of dollars (total) in forgivable loans, courtesy of American taxpayers, even if that money paid for the promotion of their religion and not just keeping employees afloat in the midst of a pandemic.
(Image via Shutterstock. This article has been edited to correct mistakes; the reality is far worse than what I wrote earlier.)