After lobbying, Catholic Church won $1.4 billion in virus aid


By now, big companies politically connected cos. Cashing in on the massive federal rescue package that was designed to help small businesses whether economic devastation wreaked by the Corona virus pandemic. Today. We are learning courtesy of The Associated Press that the US Roman Catholic Church manage to secure billions of dollars in loans from that rescue package through the Paycheck protection program. Reporter Michael Risen. D's has been reporting on the Catholic Church for a long time. He is one of the reporters who has been crunching these numbers and trying to track where that money is going. Hey there. How are you? Hey, not so bad. Nice to Beecher. How much money Exactly are we talking about? Well what? What? What I and my colleague re stunk Lin identified and I got to really give a shadow to Reese here because he's a great date a reporter, But we were able to identify between $1.4 billion a cz Muchas 3.5 billion and the reason there's a range here is because the small business administration did not release precise loan amounts. They only released ranges of loans. Oh, and we identified 35 3500 loans worth between 1.4 billion and 3.5 billion. OK, so a huge range, but we are talking upward of a 1,000,000,000. That's 1,000,000,000 with a B. It's a lot of money. How how has it been spent? Well, it's been spent as far as we know. We don't have Ah, very clear accounting. I have to say, as usual from the Catholic Church on precisely how the money is being spent. Where assured it's being spent for for payroll and utilities keeping people employed. But I have to say there is no monitoring of this program. It's self monitoring itself. Certification. So we don't actually know for sure. Do we know for sure whether any of it has been devoted to to help cover past gaps in the finances? Um and I will note that many Catholic diocese were in really bad financial shape going into the pandemic because they had to pay out these big settlements to victims of clergy sexual abuse. Does that factor into how any of this rescue money is being spent at all? Or do we know? Well, this is one of the points we made in our story Is that a lot of this money eyes going to diocese that might be experiencing financial stress not so much because of the corona virus pandemic, but because of the large payouts they've had to make to clergy abuse survivors, sometimes in the hundreds of millions of dollars. You never hear much about these payments. You do hear a lot about supposed stress from the pandemic, And I think a lot of that stresses Israel, but in effect, I think what's happening here is you're seeing Churches who are stressed financially because of clergy sex abuse, getting a break through the federal government through through direct payments from the federal government that are being used to pay actually the salaries of priests and ministers, which is unprecedented. As we noted, this money was supposed to help small businesses. The Catholic Church is not a small business how to church leaders defend us. Well, I think the first thing that happened is because of the downturn in the economy was so severe. I think the government wanted to just get a lot of money out there. So there was an exception made. For religious groups they could they could. They could apply like any small business. But then what happened is there was a second break that religion's got and the second break. Is that they were exempted from the rule that says that on ly small businesses, Khun get the loans, and the small businesses are defined by businesses with 500 employees, and that includes the employees and all of their subsidiaries. So we find now that religious groups are exempt from that rule, And that's why, for example, 80 churches, parishes in the same diocese can apply, and that's why The church was able to get so many loans and so much money and you know, I'd like to say that even though we identified between 1.4 billion and 3.5 billion We know that's an undercount. We know we were not able to identify all the loan. So the the money is really quite large. We just have a minute or so left. But do we know whether other religious institutions did other churches get this benefit? Or was this just the U. S Catholic Church? No. All religions got this benefit Thie Catholic Church, of course, is very A large organization. This is a This is a global religion that is headquartered in Rome. It is its own country. In fact, it's headquartered in Vatican City. It so its own nation. It's very time consuming toe. Identify exactly who was giving these loans we know now. So we have We have a pretty good idea of what the Catholic Church got other religions did benefit. I can't give you those numbers right now. The data was just released this week. All right, well, we'll look forward to when you come back and tell us when you've dug through the rest of it. Thank you so much for sharing your reporting today. My pleasure. It's Michael resented his investigative

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