SPRINGFIELD – A recent analysis by the Associated Press of federal data shows how much the U.S. Roman Catholic Church benefited from a Congressional exemption that allows faith-based organizations the ability to apply for forgiveable loans from the Paycheck Protection Program designed to help businesses retain their workforce during the coronavirus pandemic.
All four Catholic dioceses in Massachusetts were awarded funding in April from the program that is part of the federal stimulus legislation referred to as the CARES Act that was passed by Congress and signed into law in late March.
Other faiths have benefited, too, according to various websites based on government data.
The Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts received one between $150,000 and $350,00.
Ministries within some dioceses also received awards, including Fall River’s Catholic Education Center that received a loan for $2 to $5 million.
Mark Dupont, a spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, which was awarded $675,000, as well as awards for its parishes and schools and other ministries, said that the loans meant the diocese, which plans to re-open its schools in September, avoided employee furloughs.
“Like other non-profits, earlier this year the diocese, it’s parishes, schools, and other charitable entities applied for and received Payroll Protection Plan loans to allow us to pay our employees during the mandated COVID 19 closures,” Dupont said.
“Without these loans we would have had to furlough almost all our employees who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the program.”
He added, “This was necessitated by the suspension of Masses and all fund-raising activities that are essential to the financial health of the parishes as well as the larger diocesan church in western Massachusetts.”
“It should be noted that the Catholic community here in Western Massachusetts lives out its mission through many community based services which we help to fund, host and operate on a regular basis,” Dupont said.
“Being able to pay our dedicated employees during this difficult time ensures that our many efforts will hopefully continue into the future.”
Parishes receiving loan awards included ones with schools – Blessed Sacrament, in Holyoke, St. Thomas the Apostle, in West Springfield, St. John the Baptist, in Ludlow, St. Mary in Westfield, St. Mary in Longmeadow, St. Agnes, in Dalton, and St. Stanislaus, in Chicopee.
Dupont said the “need was especially hard for our diocesan and parish schools, where educational services carried on remotely.”
“With COVID-19 the closing of schools eliminated the before and after school revenue and severely cut planned fund-raising efforts,” said Dupont, adding that “in addition to tuition revenue each school relies on other revenue sources to balance tuition revenue with total expenses.”
He said the breakdown of the loan awards from the Paycheck Protection Program included $2.7 million for diocesan parishes, $3.4 million for schools, $678,000 for diocesan operations, $95,000 for Catholic Charities here, $104,000 for Catholic Communications and $288,000 for diocesan-managed cemeteries.
Congress has provided more than $600 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program that has gone through two rounds of funding and that Congress recently extended through Aug. 8.
The loans, awarded by the Small Business Administrations, have an interest rate of 1 percent and mature in two years if issued before June 5 and in five years if issued after that date.
Loan payment is deferred for six months and loan forgiveness, according to the SBA, is based on an employer “maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels.”
Forgiveness is reduced “if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease.”
The program is open to small businesses, independent contractors as well as nonprofits.
It is estimated more than 670,000 loans have been awarded to date.