Virus loans helped entities related to Trump’s evangelical allies

NEW YORK (AP) – Churches linked to President Donald Trump and other organizations linked to current or former Trump evangelical counselors have received at least $ 17.3 million in loans from a federal bailout program helping small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Among those receiving loans are City of Destiny, the Florida church that Trump’s personal pastor and religious advisor Paula White-Cain calls home, and First Baptist Dallas, led by Trump’s ally and senior pastor Robert Jeffress. City of Destiny got between $ 150,000 and $ 350,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, and First Baptist Dallas got between $ 2 million and $ 5 million, according to data released Monday by the Treasury Department.

The loan recipients included several churches and allied affiliate organizations that joined Trump’s evangelical advisory council during his 2016 campaign, helping a twice-divorced candidate win a socially conservative constituency that has proven to be a vital part of its political basis.

Payments received by churches and other organizations related to Trump’s evangelical allies represent a small fraction of the program’s total assistance to religious entities, which have been authorized to access pandemic assistance loans even if they fulfilled only denominational functions.

Jeffress noted that in establishing the relief program, the Trump administration and Congress have not only allowed houses of worship to participate, but have “encouraged” requests for assistance because “houses of worship are not not just departments, but they are employers. ”

The number of loan recipients linked to the President’s religious supporters, however, illustrates the potential pitfalls for churches and other faith groups who have chosen to pursue financial aid amid questions about the confusion between the church and the State.

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Government data shows that Jeffress Church says it keeps 293 jobs with its loan, while Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas says it doesn’t hold any jobs on its $ 2-5 million loan . This school is associated with Prestonwood Baptist Church, where senior pastor Jack Graham is a long-time supporter of Trump who wrote an editorial welcoming the president’s anti-abortion powers in January.

Graham, whose mega-church boasts more than 42,000 members, is not related to Trump’s evangelical counselor Franklin Graham, son of the late Reverend Billy Graham.

Other program beneficiaries linked to Trump’s former evangelical allies include The Faith and Freedom Coalition, founded by conservative strategist Ralph Reed, who obtained a loan between $ 150,000 and $ 350,000. The group said it had kept 24 jobs with its loan, according to government data.

The PPP is helping small businesses stay open and keep Americans employed in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. As part of this program, the government is supporting $ 659 billion in low-interest business loans that will be canceled if employers use money on payroll, rent and similar expenses. Businesses generally must have fewer than 500 workers to be eligible.

About $ 130 billion was left unclaimed as the deadline for applications ended June 30. With money available, Congress voted to extend the program until it expired, setting a new date for August 8.

The public may never know the identity of more than 80% of the nearly 5 million beneficiaries to date, because the administration has refused to disclose the details of loans of less than $ 150,000, which represents the vast majority borrowers. The secret sparked an open-file legal action by a group of news organizations, including The Associated Press.

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Yet the publication of the data is the most comprehensive look at the recipients of the program so far.

The federal government has released figures in dollars rather than specific amounts. This means that the amount of $ 17.3 million for loans to churches related to Trump and other organizations is a minimum, with the actual figure somewhere between there and $ 42.3 million.

The PA’s analysis of the data examined organizations related to members of the 2016 President’s evangelical advisory council, in addition to those related to pastors who publicly supported the president as he pushed to mobilize conservative religious voters.

The international ministry of King Jesus, the mega-church in Miami where Trump launched his evangelical awareness campaign before the November elections, received a loan of between 2 and 5 million dollars according to the data. The church’s pastor, Guillermo Maldonado, was also part of a group of religious leaders who met and prayed with Trump at the White House last fall.

Source: AP News

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