According to an analysis by the Associated Press, the U.S. Catholic Church received at least $1.4 billion and possibly up to $3.5 billion in coronavirus-related aid from the federal government, through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. As the AP notes that means “a global religious institution with more than a billion followers” is “among the biggest winners in the U.S. government’s pandemic relief efforts.” What makes this particularly galling is that much of the money went to dioceses that have been accused of covering up sexual abuse perpetrated by their priests, including many that have been forced to pay multi-million dollar settlements to survivors of abuse.
How did the Catholic Church even qualify for relief from the Small Business Administration, given its status as a religious institution?
The AP explains:
But as the economy plummeted and jobless rates soared, Congress let faith groups and other nonprofits tap into the Paycheck Protection Program, a $659 billion fund created to keep Main Street open and Americans employed.
By aggressively promoting the payroll program and marshaling resources to help affiliates navigate its shifting rules, Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools and other ministries have so far received approval for at least 3,500 forgivable loans, AP found.
And the church got other special treatment as well:
Simply being eligible for low-interest loans was a new opportunity. But the church couldn’t have been approved for so many loans — which the government will forgive if they are used for wages, rent and utilities — without a second break.
Religious groups persuaded the Trump administration to free them from a rule that typically disqualifies an applicant with more than 500 workers. Without this preferential treatment, many Catholic dioceses would have been ineligible because — between their head offices, parishes and other affiliates — their employees exceed the 500-person cap.
While it’s true that many dioceses were struggling financially due to the pandemic, and the PPP loans likely saved some people’s jobs, a huge chunk of the PPP loans—$200 million based on the AP’s analysis—went to dioceses that have had to pay survivors of clergy sexual abuse hundreds of millions in recent years. Maybe next time, don’t engage in a massive cover-up of rape and sexual abuse before you go crawling to the federal government for relief that actual small businesses that needed help couldn’t even access. Just a thought.
As the number of deaths and hospitalizations from covid-19 rise in several states, as each day brings a record number of cases, as we yet again face a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment, and as we relive the trauma of hospitals being overwhelmed by covid-19 patients like we’re trapped in some horror remake of Groundhog Day, Donald Trump is no longer speaking with Dr. Anthony Fauci, and his administration is battling and undermining the Centers for Disease Control.
By early June, Trump and Fauci had largely stopped in-person engagements. Fauci — who has advised every president since Ronald Reagan — told the Financial Times this week that he last saw Trump on June 2 at the White House, and hasn’t personally briefed him in at least two months.
Trump, according to officials CNN spoke with, hasn’t even attended a White House coronavirus task force since April. But what he and his administration officials have made time to do is criticize and hamper the work of the CDC.
Via the Washington Post:
As the country enters a frightening phase of the pandemic with new daily cases surpassing 57,000 on Thursday, the CDC, the nation’s top public health agency, is coming under intense pressure from President Trump and his allies, who are downplaying the dangers in a bid to revive the economy ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election. In a White House guided by the president’s instincts, rather than by evidence-based policy, the CDC finds itself forced constantly to backtrack or sidelined from pivotal decisions.
Analysts say the deepening divide is undermining the authority of one of the world’s premier public health agencies, which previously led fights against malaria, smallpox and HIV/AIDS. Amid the worst public health crisis in a century, the CDC has in recent months altered or rescinded recommendations on topics including wearing masks and safely reopening restaurants and houses of worship as a result of conflicts with top administration officials.
“At a time when our country needs an orchestrated, all-hands-on-deck response, there is simply no hand on the tiller,” said Beth Cameron, the former National Security Council’s senior director for global health security and biodefense under President Obama, to the Washington Post, in what is surely an understatement of how supremely fucked we are.
- A storm’s a’coming for Donald Trump!
- We now know how many people have to die—almost 140,000—for Trump to finally agree to slap on a face mask in public. Meanwhile, surprise surprise, his campaign’s main office sounds like a covid-19 cesspool. [CNN/Politico]
- Who could have predicted that ICE holding immigrants in crowded conditions and then deporting people would spread covid-19? [New York Times]
- Factory workers in Mississippi are demanding their bosses do more to protect them from covid-19, which has spread rapidly inside their workplaces. [Mississippi Today]
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a man whose response to police violence against Black Lives Matter protesters has been so wildly pro-NYPD that the state’s Attorney General recommended this week that he be stripped of control over the city’s police department, helped paint a Black Lives Matter mural outside of Trump Tower. [The Guardian/New York Times]
- Do NOT read this if you want to have a chill weekend free of panic dreams! [Politico]