Celebrity Pastor, Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church applied for and received a $4.4 Million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic country shutdown. According to The New York Post, Lakewood Church buckled under the pressure to pay back the $4.4 million in loans even though it claims they went straight to its 368-person staff.
Texas celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church buckled to pressure and will repay $4.4 million in COVID-19 disaster loans meant for small businesses, according to a new report. In a statement to the Houston Chronicle, Lakewood defended its decision to seek support from the Paycheck Protection Program and insisted that neither Osteen who is reportedly worth $50 million nor his wife received any of the money.
“Like many organizations temporarily shuttered by the pandemic, this loan provided Lakewood Church short-term financial assistance in 2020 ensuring that its approximately 350 employees and their families would continue to receive a paycheck and full health care benefits,” a church rep told the paper Friday. The church’s PPP payments came under scrutiny last December. Lakewood the nation’s largest megachurch — has 368 full-time and part-time employees. At least 60 religious institutions in Texas received PPP loans, the Chronicle said. Hundreds more across the country also received COVID-19 relief funding.
The large payouts were criticized by some civil libertarians who believe churches should operate entirely financially separate from any government programs. Lakewood officials have said the organization lost revenue as a result of shutting down in-person services amid COVID-19. “Lakewood was among tens of thousands of faith-based/religious organizations and secular non-profit corporations throughout the United States that were eligible and received PPP loans to weather the COVID 19 pandemic,” the church said in its statement. Osteen, a televangelist and New York Times best-selling author, lives in a $15 million mansion in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood.