How Megachurches Spent Coronavirus Relief Funds


Religious groups got $7.3B in forgivable loans. That financial security helped ministry teams focus.

Mike Vaughn doesn’t think churches should accept money from the government, normally. But when the administrative pastor of the Palm Valley Church in Goodyear, Arizona, looked at the looming economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus shutdowns, the staff jobs he was trying to save, and the way Congress structured the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to be used by religious organizations, he felt different.

“That program is a worthwhile exception to the general rule,” Vaughn told Christianity Today.

Palm Valley is one of more than 88,000 religious organizations that received money from the Small Business Administration as part of the CARES Act, which President Donald Trump signed in March. The CARES Act gave $521 billion in PPP funds to small businesses, nonprofits, and churches between the beginning of April and the end of June. About $7.3 billion went to religious organizations, according to government records.

Providing money to churches was unprecedented and controversial—even among evangelicals. Popular Christian financial advisor Dave Ramsey strongly discouraged churches from taking the money on his radio show, for example.

“It’s a triple don’t do it for churches,” Ramsey said. “Here’s why: You just let the federal government into the management of your organization.”

Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, had similar concerns.

“Is it really manna from heaven? It’s manna from Caesar, that’s for sure,” he said. “What’s it going to look like in terms of the optics in the long term, that this is where the church went for a rescue?”

Vaughn is sympathetic to that point of view. He also understands why those …

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