Joel Osteen's Church Received More Than $4 Million In PPP Loans
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Three years ago, Texas megachurch televangelist Joel Osteen got ensnared in a public-relations snafu when he appeared to balk at opening up his cavernous Lakewood Church in Houston as a shelter for families displaced by Hurricane Harvey. He did ultimately allow his venue to serve as a safe haven, and both the storm and scandal subsided.
Now he's the subject of more speculation and social media backlash, after reports surfaced in the Houston Chronicle and elsewhere that Lakewood was the beneficiary of $4.4 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan assistance. This, despite the chuch having stated earlier this year that it had not applied for government funds.
Lakewood's spokesperson was quick to do damage control, releasing a statement that read, in part, "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."
Osteen's house of worship was neither the first congregation nor substantially enriched organization to benefit from the PPP program. It is, however, unique in that — unlike most small business struggling through another surge in Covid cases and related economic shutdowns — it generates substantial revenue from the TV ministry component of its operations while maintaining its status as a tax-exempt religious entity.