(ChurchLeaders) America’s largest megachurch, led by a celebrity pastor who’s the target of frequent criticism, says it has fully repaid $4.4 million in pandemic-related loans. Joel Osteen‘s Houston-area Lakewood Church became a “viral villain” last year for accepting federal funds through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). A spokesperson is now providing bank statements to prove the church has repaid the money, even though that wasn’t required.
Churches, despite being tax-exempt, were eligible for these loans, intended to help institutions and businesses weather COVID-19 shutdowns. Recipients didn’t need to repay the money if it went toward expenses such as salaries and mortgages.