Pictured, from left: Timothy Dolan, Bryan Fischer, and Tim Wildmon
The Paycheck Protection Program, established to help small businesses keep employees on payroll during the COVID-19 crisis, is giving government support to religion — and in some cases funding hatred of LGBTQ+ people.
The Small Business Administration this week released a list of 650,000 recipients of loans from the program — those that received more than $150,000. They include not only for-profit businesses but nonprofits with views across the political spectrum. And some of the businesses have connections to the Trump family or other politicians.
Some of the loans that are particularly raising eyebrows are those to the Roman Catholic Church and such virulently anti-LGBTQ+ organizations as the American Family Association and Concerned Women for America.
“Houses of worship and faith-based organizations that promote religious beliefs aren’t usually eligible for money from the U.S. Small Business Administration,” the Associated Press reports. “But as the economy plummeted and jobless rates soared, Congress let faith groups and other nonprofits tap into the Paycheck Protection Program, a $659 billion fund created to keep Main Street open and Americans employed.”
The loans were supposed to go to entities with 500 or fewer employees, with some exceptions, but religious groups received a waiver on that, the AP notes. Loans under the PPP are forgivable if the recipient shows it kept employees on payroll or rehired them quickly.
The Catholic Church received at least $1.4 billion in aid through the program and may have gotten up to $3.5 billion, according to the AP’s analysis. The SBA did not release the exact amount each entity received, just a range.
Much of the money loaned to the church went to “dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups,” the AP reports.
At least $28 million went to the executive offices of the Archdiocese of New York, headed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, one of the most outspokenly anti-LGBTQ+ members of the Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. While the church considers homosexuality a sin and does not allow same-sex marriages or recognize gender transition, some Catholic clergy members have at least softened their rhetoric toward LGBTQ+ people.
Another anti-LGBTQ+ group that received a PPP loan is the Mississippi-based AFA, which gives a platform to commentators such as Bryan Fischer, who just a few months ago claimed that the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler’s army were full of gay people, when in reality Hitler persecuted gays and sent them to concentration camps. The AFA, headed by Tim Wildmon, has also called for a boycott of Target due to its trans-inclusive restroom policy and is the parent organization of One Million Moms, which often rails against positive representations of LGBTQ+ people in entertainment and advertising.
It was one of eight SPLC-classified hate groups to receive PPP funds, CBS News reports. Another is Concerned Women for America, whose CEO, Penny Nance, has said the Equality Act endangers women, among other homophobic and transphobic statements.
Other questionable recipients include organizations that have long opposed government assistance, such as the Ayn Rand Institute and Americans for Tax Reform, according to Forbes. The former is named for the late author who championed selfishness as a virtue. The latter was founded by Grover Norquist, who once said he wanted to shrink government until it was so small it could be drowned in a bathtub.
Loans have also gone to Kanye West’s clothing company, the Church of Scientology, and companies connected to members of the Trump family and the family of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Meanwhile, some minority-owned small businesses say they’ve been turned down for PPP loans.
John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of the small business advocacy group Small Business Majority, called for the release of more information about loan recipients, as did Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, ABC News reports.
“Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant, and we cannot allow those small businesses that were grossly underfunded or disadvantaged by the program to disappear and not have their stories told and rectified,” Arensmeyer said.