Televangelist Marcus Lamb returns $3.9M PPP loan after private jet inquiry

Joni and Marcus Lamb host Daystar’s flagship show, “Celebration." | (Photo: Daystar)

Daystar Television Network returned the $3.9 million it received from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program after it was probed by a reporter over the recent purchase of a private jet.

The Christian network, founded by Marcus Lamb, denied using PPP funds to purchase a multimillion-dollar 1997 Gulfstream V, a luxury aircraft for up to 14 passengers, according to  Inside Edition. The purchase came two weeks after it received the PPP loan.

“Lamb says Daystar was able to buy the jet with proceeds from an investment and the sale of its old jet,” the news magazine reported.

Daystar, based in Texas, is one of the the world’s largest Christian-based TV networks that features popular preachers and hosts Marcus and Joni Lamb. It is classified as a tax-exempt church and thus is not required to disclose its finances.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic this year, the Small Business Administration’s PPP intended to help small businesses and nonprofits weather coronavirus-related shutdowns and keep workers on payroll. According to the program’s provisions, a loan can be forgiven only if at least 60% of the amount received goes to salaries. Many churches applied and received PPP loans and among them, Daystar received $3.9 million, according to Inside Edition.

Inside Edition Chief Investigative Correspondent Lisa Guerrero confronted Marcus Lamb about the jet that was purchased soon after. 

“Your church received millions of dollars in taxpayer money, and two weeks later bought a private jet for millions of dollars. Can you explain that?” she asked.

“No we did not; used our own money,” Lamb responded. 

“Then what are you using that private jet for? Church business only?” Guerrero asked. 

“Absolutely,” Lamb replied.

The news magazine reported that Lamb’s family used the jet this year for vacations in Florida and California. Lamb said he was on a working vacation.

After Inside Edition’s inquiries, Daystar paid back the entire PPP loan to the government with interest.

“An attorney for Daystar Network says that it does not use charitable donations to fund its operations, including the purchase of that jet, and it complies with all laws,” it reported.

More than 10,000 religious organizations, including a few other televangelists, received over $3 billion under the PPP, a large chunk of which went to groups affiliated with the Catholic Church, according to a partial list of recipients that was released in July.

According to an analysis of the list of beneficiaries by The Guardian, nine organizations received between $5 million and $10 million, the highest loan amount available under PPP. Seven of these 19 groups were affiliated with the Catholic Church.

Jimmy Swaggart, who leads the Family Worship Center in Louisiana and was earlier defrocked by the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in the early 1990s over sex scandals, got between $2 million and $5 million.

A survey by Vanderbloeman found that some 75% of Christian churches and organizations that received a PPP loan said the funds helped keep their operations fully staffed and many of them have already been forgiven. More than half of the Christian churches and organizations (61%) received less than $150,000 and 85% of them received less than $349,000.

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