(PoliticalLookout.com)- Records show the multimillionaire Joel Osteen managed to bag some $4.4 million in federal COVID-19 relief bailouts for his Lakewood Church in Texas. The story has caused great confusion, as businesses throughout the country have struggled to access sufficient funds to keep their doors open.
The massive church in Houston, which is the biggest in the country, has 52,000 worshippers pass through its doors each week, and according to a report from the Houston Business Journal, it received a huge loan from the Paycheck Protection Program at the end of July.
It was the third-biggest loan in Houston during July and August, the newspaper claim, citing data published by the federal government.
Donald Iloff, a spokesman for the Lakewood church, told the press that the funds were used to pay 368 full-time and part-time employees, describing that people were out of work because in-person services were suspended between March 15 and October 18. Iloff claimed that, because the in-person services were stopped, the church was unable to “collect substantial donations during those services.”
He also described how the church initially refrained from applying for the funds, assuming that the lockdown wouldn’t last as long as it did.
“Believing the shutdown would only last a few weeks, Lakewood did not initially apply for PPP assistance during the first half of the program,” he explained. “However, as the shutdown persisted month after month, given the economic uncertainty, Lakewood finally applied for the PPP loan and has been able to provide full salaries and benefits including health insurance coverage to all of its employees and their families.”
Iloff said it was important to recognize that Pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen – multimillionaires – have not received any salaries from the church and that the PP funds were not used to provide any financial benefit to them.
Joel Osteen is one of the most famous televangelists anywhere in the world and is believed to be worth around $100 million.
According to the Houston Business Journal report, some 1,500 religious groups in Houston received funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, and around 20 of them received over $1 million.