The loans were given to a variety of US religious organisations, not just evangelical churches, official data shows

Copyright © AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

Multiple posts on Facebook claim that US “Evangelical churches got $7.3 billion” in government loans distributed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The claim is false; the US federal government has distributed US$7.3 billion in loans during the pandemic to a wide variety of religious organisations, not just evangelical churches, according to official data.

The claim was posted here on a New Zealand-based Facebook page. The post has been shared more than 160 times.

A screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken July 16, 2020.

The post features an image of a crowd at a stadium. The text below reads in part: “I got $1,200. You got $1,200 (maybe). Evangelical churches got $7.3 billion.” 

Since April 2020, a range of small businesses, independent contractors and non-profit organisations (including religious organisations) in the US have been eligible for loans capped at US$10 million.

The $1,200 figure included in the false Facebook posts is a reference to the Economic Impact Payments given to eligible Americans by the federal government in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

The text featured in the image was also shared on Facebook here, here and here with a similar claim.

The claim, however, is false.

The US Small Business Administration (SBA), the federal agency that distributes COVID-19 loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), reported here that as of June 30, 2020, US$7.3 billion in loans were given to “religious organisations”. 

This data set accompanying the SBA report shows that a wide variety of religious organisations received loans under the scheme, not just evangelical churches as the false posts claim. 

Other faith-based recipients included the Islamic Association of North Texas and the Saint Elizabeth Roman Catholic Parish in Pennsylvania. 

A photo montage of some non-profit organisations granted PPP loans, with the Islamic Association of Texas and Saint Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church highlighted in yellow. Taken July, 16, 2020.

The PPP was established under the US Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in order to help businesses keep workers employed after COVID-19 sparked a wave of unemployment in the country.