Joel Osteen’s Megachurch Repays $4.4 Million in Pandemic-Relief Loans

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America’s largest megachurch, led by a celebrity pastor who’s the target of frequent criticism, says it has fully repaid $4.4 million in pandemic-related loans. Joel Osteen‘s Houston-area Lakewood Church became a “viral villain” last year for accepting federal funds through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). A spokesperson is now providing bank statements to prove the church has repaid the money, even though that wasn’t required.

Churches, despite being tax-exempt, were eligible for these loans, intended to help institutions and businesses weather COVID-19 shutdowns. Recipients didn’t need to repay the money if it went toward expenses such as salaries and mortgages.

Lakewood Church, which has an average weekly attendance of 43,000 and receives yearly donations of more than $40 million, says it didn’t apply for aid initially, “believing the shutdown would only last a few weeks.” But the seven-month halt of in-person worship during 2020 led to “economic uncertainty” and impacted the church’s “ability to collect substantial donations,” it states. Read more …

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