CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 21:35 pm
The U.S. bishops on Friday defended the use of the federal Paycheck Protection Program by Catholic parishes, hospitals, schools, dioceses, and social service agencies, after a report from the Associated Press said the government had given “special consideration” to faith groups in the loan program and characterized Catholic participation in the coronavirus relief program as an “aggressive pursuit of funds.”
“The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to protect the jobs of Americans from all walks of life, regardless of whether they work for for-profit or non-profit employers, faith-based or secular,” Archbishop Paul Coakley, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference committee on domestic justice and human development said in a July 10 statement.
“The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental supplier of social services in the United States. Each year, our parishes, schools and ministries serve millions of people in need, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. The novel coronavirus only intensified the needs of the people we serve and the demand for our ministries. The loans we applied for enabled our essential ministries to continue to function in a time of national emergency.”
“In addition, shutdown orders and economic fallout associated with the virus have affected everyone, including the thousands of Catholic ministries -- churches, schools, healthcare and social services -- that employ about 1 million people in the United States,” Coakley added.
“These loans have been an essential lifeline to keep hundreds of thousands of employees on payroll, ensure families maintain their health insurance, and enable lay workers to continue serving their brothers and sisters during this crisis.”
The federal loan program is a $669-billion initiative that allows entities to obtain low-interest loans that can be forgiven if the money goes mostly to cover payroll expenses, and to keep people employed who are in danger of losing their jobs. While more than 4.9 million loans have been approved to date, more than $130 billion remains available to potential borrowers.
Earlier this week, data was released by the government that revealed the identities of many, but not all loan participants. Loan recipients included Planned Parenthood affiliates, numerous firms owned by state and federal lawmakers, the publisher of the National Enquirer, the libertarian Ayn Rand Institute, and other organizations that have raised eyebrows or been subject to criticism.
Still, officials with the federal Small Business Association said that the program was designed to keep people employed, regardless of their industry or employer, and that the SBA will exercise oversight to ensure funds were not borrowed under false pretenses.