Florida religious organizations got over $200 million in federal coronavirus aid

Religious organizations in Florida received hundreds of millions in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program to save jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Religious organizations usually aren’t eligible for money from the U.S. Small Business Administration, but Congress allowed them to take part in the Paycheck Protection Program — and many in Florida did.

According to data compiled from the SBA and ProPublica, more than 760 religious organizations in the state received the taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid.

The largest beneficiary was Grace Fellowship of West Palm Beach, a church that qualified for a PPP loan between $5-10 million, according to the federal data, to save the jobs of 182 people.

There are organizations of various faiths that received aid in the form of those low-interest loans.

For example, Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesus in Miami got between $2-5 million to save 287 jobs.

The Archdiocese of Miami received between $1-2 million to retain 100 jobs.

The Lubavitch Educational Center, a private Jewish school in Miami, received $1-2 million to save 340 jobs.

The government’s data, released last week after pressure from Congress and a lawsuit from news outlets, shows only ranges of loan amounts. It also does not name recipients of loans under $150,000, so there are likely many more Florida places of worship and faith-based organizations beyond the 760+ that received at least $150,000.

Based on just the list available, religious organizations in Florida were granted between $196 million and $467 million.

Of those 760+ religious organizations within the state whose loan amounts are available, more than 615 of them received between $150,000 and $350,000.

The Associated Press reported that the U.S. Roman Catholic Church as a whole amassed at least $1.4 billion in aid, a total that could have actually met or exceeded $3.5 billion.

The Paycheck Protection Program is a $659 billion fund created to keep Americans employed through the COVID-19 crisis.

If you’re interested in looking up loans approved by lenders and disclosed by the Small Business Administration, there’s a resource available here.

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