Famous Pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church has bowed to the pressure and will repay $ 4.4 million in COVID-19 disaster loans for small businesses, according to a new report.
In a statement to the Houston Chronicle, Lakewood – whose pastor Osteen is reportedly worth $ 50 million – defended his decision to seek support from the Paycheck Protection Program and insisted that neither Osteen nor his wife had received money.
Like many organizations temporarily shut down by the pandemic, this loan provided short-term financial assistance to Lakewood Church in 2020, ensuring that its approximately 350 employees and their families would continue to receive paychecks and health care benefits. complete, âa church representative told the newspaper. Friday.
The church’s PPP payments came under scrutiny last December. Lakewood, the largest mega-church in the country, has 368 full-time and part-time staff.
At least 60 Texas religious institutions have received PPP loans, according to the Chronicle. Hundreds more across the country have also received COVID-19 relief funding.
The big payments have been criticized by some civil liberties advocates who believe churches should operate fully financially independent of any government program.
Lakewood officials said the organization lost revenue due to the in-person service shutting down amid COVID-19.
Osteen, a televangelist and New York Times bestselling author, allegedly bought his wife a $ 200,000 Lamborghini and lives in a $ 15 million mansion in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood.