Lakewood Church received a $4.4 million Paycheck Protection Plan loan during the coronavirus pandemic, according to federal data. The loan was disbursed in July of this year.
U.S. Small Business Administration data, which was released at the beginning of December, showed that Lakewood Church's PPP loan was created by Bank of America. The megachurch's hefty loan was the third-largest PPP loan approved for a Houston-area entity during all of July and August, according to Chris Matthews at Houston Business Journal.
The church, like many other businesses, was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lakewood's in-person services were halted due to the pandemic, but were able to resume in October, at 25 percent capacity.
According to a statement from Lakewood spokesperson David Iloff, the church's PPP loan was used to provide support for the church's employees.
Iloff went on to say, "Believing the shutdown would only last a few weeks, Lakewood did not initially apply for PPP assistance during the first half of the program. 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."
Even with such a hefty loan amount, none of the PPP loan was used to pay pastors Joel or Victoria Olsteen, as neither of the them have received salaries from Lakewood Church since 2004.
Lakewood Church wasn't the only religious institution in the Greater Houston area to receive a loan over $1 million. Federal data shows that over a thousand religious entities in the Houston area were approved for the loan. Of all churches approved for PPP loans, Lakewood received the largest in Houston.
The church has received scrutiny from the public in the past for not opening the church doors during natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.