While the loan process is still yet to be completed, preliminary data on the beneficiaries of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program show that among churches, Catholics appear to have the highest approval rate.
Nearly three-quarters of the approximately $660 billion PPP funds have already been allotted but it has remained a subject of contention in recent weeks. Many small businesses and minority churches have been complaining about not being able to access the forgivable, government-backed loans designed to help them keep their workers on payroll during the coronavirus pandemic.
Carol R. Wilkerson, press director of the SBA, told The Christian Post this week that individual loan data will not be released until the loan process is complete but preliminary data suggest that some churches have enjoyed much more success in accessing the PPP funds than others. And among those approved, Catholics are at the top of the heap.
A recent CBS News report said between 12,000 and 13,000 of the 17,000 Catholic churches in the U.S. applied for PPP loans and so far, 9,000 of these applications have been approved, reflecting an acceptance rate of 69%-75%.
A Lifeway Research survey conducted April 27–29 showed that among Protestant pastors, 40% said they applied for loans under the PPP. Of that 40% that applied, more than half of them said their applications were approved for assistance.
Leaders of black churches nationwide, meanwhile, say they haven’t been as successful.
"We have representation from all of our nine major African-American denominations," Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, said in a recent NPR report. "Most of them have complained about the lack of responsiveness from the banks to which they have submitted applications. These are churches from San Francisco to Detroit to Florida to Connecticut. We hear a consistent concern from church leaderships across the country."
Experts suggested to CBS News that flaws in the PPP have prevented up to 90 percent of minority and women business applicants to the program from accessing funds.
"Based on how the program is structured, we estimate that upwards of 90 percent of businesses owned by people of color have been, or will likely be, shut out of the Paycheck Protection Program," Ashley Harrington, director of federal advocacy and senior council for the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit group that combats abusive lending practices that recently examined the loan program's parameters, said.
Recently during a call between President Trump and Catholic leaders, Trump pledged support for Catholic schools whose leaders pressed him about the need for continued funding amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Never has the outlook financially looked more bleak, but perhaps never has the outlook looked more promising given the energetic commitment that your administration has to our schools,” Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan said on the call. “We need you more than ever.”