Religious leaders are applauding the Trump administration for adopting an interim rule allowing all churches and faith-based organizations impacted by the pandemic to receive loans under the new CARES Act.
Jovita Carranza, head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), on Saturday announced that houses of worship and faith-based organizations are eligible to participate in the new law’s Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
Both programs are part of the CARES Act signed by President Trump and designed to help businesses stay afloat and pay their employees during the coronavirus pandemic. The business and organizations must have fewer than 500 employees.
“Following the passage of the emergency economic relief assistance, the Administration and Congress acted to ensure that small businesses and non-profits alike have access to critical funds to keep their workers paid and employed,” Carranza said in a statement. “Faith-based organizations have always provided critical social services for people in need, and SBA will make clear that these organizations may access this emergency capital.”
The $2 trillion law includes $350 billion for small businesses and organizations. An SBA press release said churches and faith-based groups are eligible “without restrictions based on their religious identity or activities.”
An FAQ document from the Small Business Administration says, “No otherwise eligible organization will be disqualified from receiving a loan because of the religious nature, religious identity, or religious speech of the organization.”
First Liberty Institute commended the Trump administration for clarifying that churches and faith-based organizations are eligible. Prior to Carranza’s announcement, First Liberty Institute had raised concerns that an old regulation might prohibit some churches and faith-based groups from participating. At issue were nondiscrimination regulations, according to Baptist Press.
“We applaud the Trump Administration for addressing this issue within 24 hours. It demonstrates the administration’s continued commitment to religious liberty,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the First Liberty Institute.
Travis Wussow, the general counsel and vice president for public policy of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, also commended the Trump administration.
“It is significant that SBA’s new regulations state that the religious freedom rights of houses of worship and faith-based nonprofits will be upheld in this new loan guarantee program,” Wussow told Baptist Press.
Some churches and faith-based organizations, though, may choose not to participate. Chuck Bentley, CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, urged caution.
Bentley listed pros and cons.
The pros, according to Bentley:
- “This loan/grant would be a hedge against our downside risk for losses in FY21.
- It would help protect our cash and our staff through the storm. Nobody really knows how bad this may get. I hear both extremes about the economy and land somewhere in the middle. I am not panicked.
- We can pay it back in full if we actually use it or do not use it.”
- “So far, we have chosen to never borrow money. We teach others to avoid it or only do so for short-term needs.
- “I would not be able to communicate to our donors/partners that we are fully trusting God for His provision – unless we deem this His provision.
- “We would be taking taxpayer money from other groups that may need it more. Many taxpayers will hate the idea of supporting God’s work.”
Crown is not participating in the program, Bentley said.
“Our bottom line is that we think we should not accept any taxpayer funds for our ministry, and that we should trust the Lord to provide,” he said. “At the same time, I don’t think it is sinful for others to accept these funds if it is paid back in full.”
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