Joel Austin is returning 4.4 million from MegaChurch PPP Inn

Celebrity pastor Joel Austin is repaying the millions of dollars he received from the Megacharch Covid-1 disaster fund, which responded last year.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the Houston-based Lakewood Church received about 4. 4.4 million through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to cover salaries and other expenses when shutting down personal services for seven months last year.

The church received a wide response, with critics calling for the separation of church and state, especially in the United States, where most churches are considered tax-free. Lakewood defended his decision, claiming that none of the money went to Austin or his wife.

Lakewood said the PPP loan was important to them “in times of such need”.

“Like many organizations temporarily shut down by the epidemic, this loan provides short-term financial support to Lakewood Church in 2020 to ensure that its approximately 50 employees and their families continue to receive salaries and full healthcare benefits.” .

Lakewood said in a statement from its bank that it had paid off millions of dollars since January.

According to data released by the Small Business Administration, Lakewood was among at least 60 religious organizations in Texas that received more than 1 1 million in loans through the Federal Care Act, the first stimulus package passed by lawmakers in response to the epidemic pressure on businesses.

The program was controversial because it was the first time the federal government had offered direct financial assistance to an intact religious and nonprofit group.

Under the law, churches and non-profit organizations with less than 500 employees were eligible for waiver loans if used at basic costs, including salaries and utilities. Those who criticized the program argued that because loans were unforgivable, they were technically subsidized, meaning the government was subsidizing religious activities.

Although Lakewood has chosen to return the money, it is unclear whether any other churches will follow suit. We will keep you posted.

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