WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- Joel’s Osteen Lakewood Church obtained a $4.4 million COVID-19 relief aid via Paycheck Protection Program loan facilitated by the federal government.
- According to church spokesman Donald Illoff, the loan was disbursed to 368 church employees which excluded the Osteen couple.
- The Houston Business Journal also reported that over 1,500 religious organizations in Houston were able to secure loans.
On Sunday, the Houston Business Journal reported that Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church ━ the largest congregation in the US with over 52,000 weekly attendees ━ received a COVID-19 relief aid amounting to $4.4 million through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.
Based on federal data, the Houston megachurch got the third-highest loan citywide in July and August, the outlet reported.
According to Lakewood’s spokesperson Donald Illoff, about 368 full and part-time church employees were the recipients of the PPP check, the Journal said.
Illoff noted that the church’s “ability to collect substantial donations” was affected by the pandemic restrictions which halted their services from March 15 up to October 18.
“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 said in a statement.
“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 also emphasized that “since 2004, Pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen have not received salaries from Lakewood Church, and the PPP funds do not provide any personal financial benefit to them, whatsoever.”
The Journal also reported that over 1,500 religious organizations in Houston were able to secure PPP loans. About 20 groups have obtained over $1 million in aid.
In April, Osteen and Kanye West planned to hold a virtual Easter Sunday service. West did not push through at the last minute because of social distancing restrictions, per TMZ.
The service, though, still commenced and joined by celebrities such as Mariah Carey and Tyler Perry.
As one of the most influential televangelists today with a net worth of approximately $100 million, Osteen became the lead pastor of the Lakewood Church in 1999 after the passing of founding pastor John Osteen, his dad.
In 2017, he earned criticisms over his alleged refusal to accommodate Tropical Story Harvey victims in his megachurch.
Source: New York Post