Oklahoma Religious Institutions Received More Than $ 84 Million In PPP | News

Religious organizations, including religious universities and schools, in Oklahoma received nearly $ 85 million in federal aid during the course of the pandemic.

According to a Transcript review of data recently released by the Small Business Administration, Oklahoma religious institutions received $ 84 million in Check Protection Program loans. Oklahoma businesses received a total of $ 3.76 billion in APP funding.

Complete list of religious institutions that received APP funds in Oklahoma. Source: Small Business Administration

The PPP loan has caused some controversy as it marks the first time that the federal government has provided some form of direct monetary assistance to religious institutions or places of worship tax-free.

The PPP loan was created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump and passed in late March. Small businesses or nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees were allowed to apply for a loan of up to $ 10 million.

“The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll,” the SBA website reads.

However, the SBA clarified that the loans do not exclude religious organizations.

“In addition, we clarified that religious organizations are eligible for SBA loans regardless of whether they provide secular social services,” reads a FAQ on the SBA website. “That is, no organization that otherwise qualifies will be disqualified from receiving a loan due to the religious nature, religious identity or religious discourse of the organization.”

Some have argued that government intervention to help religious institutions and places of worship violates the separation of church and state, including Americans United by the separation of church and state, Rob Boston.

“This is direct government funding of religion,” Boston told the Houston Chronicle. And once government funding comes into the equation, all bets are off. So it becomes a matter of public interest to determine if the taxpayers’ money was spent in accordance with the law we are talking about ”.

Life.Church Operations LLC, based in Edmond, OK. received a PPP loan of $ 7,007,000, the largest loan of any religious institution in Oklahoma and the 16th largest loan received from any business in the state.

Life.Church claimed 451 employees at 36 locations on its loan, bringing them under the SBA’s fewer than 500 employee requirement.

In a statement to The Transcript, Life.Church Pastor and Innovation Leader Bobby Gruenewald said they are grateful that nonprofits have had the opportunity to apply for the PPP loan because they believe organizations like theirs. ” they play an important role in serving communities during times of crisis. “

“This program was helpful in keeping our team members employed, and we are grateful that we have been able to continue to meet the needs of our 36 locations as we have served our communities during this uncertain year,” said Gruenewald.

Life.Church has a Norman location and a Moore location.

According to PPP data released by the federal government, two other religious organizations in Norman received a PPP loan. Victory Family Church received a PPP loan of $ 485,400 and claimed 48 employees; McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church received a loan of $ 369,000 and claimed 122 employees.

Stephen Mitchell, McFarlin Memorial business administrator, said the PPP loan helped them tremendously and that 100% went to payroll.

“Offerings and donations were understandably reduced due to the suspension of in-person worship and without the PPP loan we would not be able to sustain our current staff and at the same time be in a position to move forward in 2021,” Mitchell said.

Victory Family Church did not immediately respond to The Transcript’s request for comment.

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