Houston’s mega-church, the largest in the country with 52,000 weekly worshipers, received the forgivable loan from the Paycheck Protection Program in late July, the Houston Business Journal reported on Sunday.
The loan was the third highest in the Houston area during all of July and August, the outlet noted, citing federal data.
Lakewood’s P3 check went to 368 full-time and part-time employees, spokesperson Donald Iloff told the Houston Business Journal.
He said in-person services which were suspended from March 15 to October 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic had an impact on “his ability to raise substantial donations during these services.”
“Believing the shutdown would only last a few weeks, Lakewood initially did not seek PPP assistance during the first half of the program,” Iloff said in a statement. “However, as the shutdown persisted month after month, given the economic uncertainty, Lakewood eventually applied for the PPP loan and was able to provide full salaries and benefits, including health insurance coverage. to all of its employees and their families. “
He added: “It is important to note that, since 2004, Pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen have not received a salary from Lakewood Church, and P3 funds do not provide them with any personal financial benefit whatsoever. is.
Osteen – whose sermons are seen around the world – is worth around $ 100 million. He took over as head of Lakewood Church after the death of his father, Founding Pastor John Osteen, in 1999.
The bestselling author was criticized in 2017 following accusations that he refused to open his mega-church to the victims of Tropical Storm Harvey.
The Small Business Administration said it approved more than 5 million loans under the $ 525 billion program, which ended in August.
Beneficiaries included small businesses – as well as thousands of churches and other religious organizations and private schools.
About 1,500 religious organizations in the Houston area have been approved for PPP loans, of which 20 have received loans over $ 1 million, according to the Houston Business Journal.