Upstate churches borrow millions in PPP funding, giving to community


GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – On July 2nd the U.S. Department of the Treasury released data showing businesses that borrowed money through the SBA Paycheck Protection Program.

The data was divided into multiple lengthy spreadsheets and organized by state and loan amounts received. The information shows businesses that borrowed $150,000 or less, and those who borrowed over $150,000 to $10 million.

The goal of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was to keep businesses afloat during the economic collapse caused by the pandemic by providing them with funds to help pay their employees.

Businesses in many industries around the Upstate, from restaurants to nail salons, received thousands and even millions of dollars from the program.

But some people in the Upstate are curious about how and why many churches received funding under the program since they are usually considered tax-exempt organizations.

Under the PPP loan requirements, if a business operates in the United States, has fewer than 500 employees and meets the employee-based size for it’s specific industry then it can qualify to receive a PPP loan.

Despite being in the middle of a global pandemic, churches in the Greenville area continue to extend outreach services to churchgoers in-need such as financial donations, utility assistance, employment resources, food and childcare.

Richie Hughes, chief operating officer at Relentless Church, said their efforts to give back to the community have not slowed down.

“When we were somewhat forced to shut down live services in early March, we decided that we would ramp up our efforts to engage people. We decided that our staff pastors were going to make a minimum of 100 phone calls per week to the people in our database,” Hughes said.

Hughes said the ministry is working hard to provide for the community during their COVID-19 outreach initiatives.

He told us that staff pastors are making thousands of prayer calls each week, hosting job fairs, providing wellness screenings for over 200 people, and paying for laundry for those who need help. All of which requires employees.

According to the report released by the SBA, The Relentless Church is listed as a corporation that provides jobs to 151 employees. On April 10, the church was approved for $1-2 million in PPP funding.

“While the pandemic is closing the door to the church, we feel like we’re reaching out more than ever before,” said Hughes “Like other businesses, schools, and universities we’re doing all that we can to take care of our employee base.”

Other churches in the area that were approved for millions through the PPP program include Grace Community Church, Newspring Church and Seacoast Christian Community Church all of which retain over 100 employees.

Applying for the PPP funding is optional, and some churches in Greenville with less staff have opted out of applying to receive PPP funding.

Josh Crockett, senior pastor, at Morningside Baptist Church said despite nationwide financial woes caused by the pandemic, members of the congregation have donated more than he’s seen in the church’s history.

“It’s exciting to see people giving very generously during this time, rather than hoarding or holding on to what they have, people are really giving generously to the community. We’ve been able to do things for our neighbors,” Crockett said.

Crockett said these extra funds have allowed the church to increase their outreach. Over the past few months members have provided lunch for first responders and nurses in the community, financial help for families to rebuild after the Greenville tornadoes in April, and helping those with COVID-19 take care of yard work.

Morningside Church opted out of applying for PPP funding because Crockett said as a non-profit organization they felt the funds we’re not for them, but for those who had a need.

“Because of people’s giving and generosity, we’re able to meet the needs of our employees and also give to other churches locally as well as people in the community,” Crockett said.

The Paycheck Protection Program provided up to 659 billion to small businesses across the nation.

To learn more about PPP please visit the SBA website.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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