The Payroll Protection Act is a part of the CARES Act, the multi-trillion government response to the COVID-19 crisis. Here’s how Baptist Press put it in regard to churches and non-profits:
Nonprofits, including churches and other religious ministries, are eligible to receive funds covering up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll, with a cap of $10 million per loan.
Jonathan Whitehead, occasional commenter here and ERLC trustee is quoted:
Before the interim final ruling was issued, Jonathan Whitehead, an attorney specializing in First Amendment law, said he had advised churches seeking his counsel “to wait and see” what the SBA guidance would say before applying for a loan under the program. With the process scheduled to open Friday, Whitehead, an ERLC trustee, acknowledged: “There’s a question about whether you need to be first in line (to ensure funds are available).”
Seems to me that the important things to know about the church/non-profit government bailout is (a) it is a Small Business Administration loan, not a cash grant, although properly handled the loan is forgivable at some future date, (b) likely, one of your local banks will actually make the loan, and (c) you have to certify harm by COVID-19.
Churches with serious interest in this should verify and drill down into the matter rather than take my word or that of press releases on it.
Unemployment benefits are also available to laid off staff, including clergy staff, although there is a question about how long that process would take. The concept makes sense, small businesses would be assisted in maintaining their payroll in the short term (I’ve seen both eight weeks and two and a half months) to keep their business intact and ready to reopen when all this is past.
Already, consultants and others are offering help to churches. Some of these are fee-based.
My thinking is that every church I pastored would pass on this and work hard to be fair and generous with staff. Since it is a loan, no church I ever pastored would be able to do this without some sort of church approval.
As an aside, every church I pastored also had vivid institutional memories about how a few members, on their own, mortgaged their homes to keep the church open during the Great Depression. Perhaps in the future churches would have the memory about how dear Uncle Sam bailed them out curing the virus crisis.
Some approaches to this program look like a land rush, advising churches to be first in line. I’ve seen how some clergy are willing to lie to opt out of Social Security. Is this going to yield similar ethical abdications?
These are strange days. My prayers and encouragement for all pastors trying to shepherd their church through this.
Religious liberty concerns resolved… Entire Baptist Press article from yesterday.
GuideStone Q&A, from last Friday. Things move fast these days. Changes almost daily.
To me, whether or not to avail oneself and one’s church of this government benefit is a far more difficult decision than deciding to acquiesce or ignore government orders to not hold meetings.
Should the government bail out the self-employed evangelist who has had all of his meetings cancelled? One consultant explained that such would be eligible. Brave new world.
And, I’m planning for my inaugural Zoom meeting this Sunday afternoon. I had aimed at being the last person to resort to that.