Pews across the country are empty as safety measures are observed for COVID-19. The federal Cares Act provides relief for financial pressure. Assistants will soon be ready to help churches apply.
Local churches are dealing with financial challenges during the COVID-19 crisis. Your Michigan Conference Treasurer and Benefits Office and Council on Finance and Administration have been working diligently to secure and provide the most accurate information we can to address these concerns.
On March 27, 2020, the federal government passed the CARES Act in response to the coronavirus outbreak. One of the many provisions included in the act is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This program enables small businesses (including churches) to apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to cover the cost of maintaining payroll for eight weeks. Also, if churches maintain proper records and reporting (and use the loans only for specific items listed in the program), they can have the loans wholly forgiven.
Brief update April 6 — As banks await instructions from the Small Business Administration, there are two important steps for churches to take. First, contact your District Superintendent, and then, speak with your local lender. Also, read through the FAQ by Conference Treasurer David Dobbs.
“This action by the government can be a critical piece in helping local churches stay financially afloat during the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Brad Bartelmay, Chair of the Michigan Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CCFA).
While this is potentially very good news for many Michigan churches, not all of them have the skills to navigate the process of applying for the loans nor to do the reporting that is needed afterward. “The SBA Payroll Protection loan application will likely be straightforward to complete,” says David Bell, Executive Director of The United Methodist Foundation of Michigan. But Bell adds, “The more challenging part will likely be completing the paperwork for the loan to be forgiven.”
As for bad news, private companies have already begun to reach out to pastors and churches with an offer of assistance with PPP, at a substantial cost. Bell explains, “The Foundation is advising against using individuals or firms to complete the application. We are very aware that some are taking advantage of small businesses and implying that these businesses will be unable to complete the application on their own or, worse yet, implying some guarantee that working with them will qualify them for preferential treatment.”
CCFA is partnering with the Conference Treasurer to offer aid, at no cost, to Michigan United Methodist churches seeking to apply for PPP. CCFA is recruiting and training a corps of volunteers who will be prepared to guide PPP application and reporting.
David Bell concludes, “I anticipate that you will rely on those within the Church who are working diligently to provide helpful information and appropriate steps to follow.”
Those steps United Methodist pastors and finance leaders need to take will be announced soon.
Preparations that can be made in the meantime. Wespath, the managers of Benefits and Investments for The United Methodist Church, offers a summary of the potential impact of the Cares Act for the UMC.
First steps as churches prepare to apply for the loan:
- They are encouraged to make sure their 2019 Financial Statements are complete and that 1st Quarter Financial Statements are prepared as soon as possible;
- Review or consult with your District Superintendent on the Disciplinary steps required to receive a loan and take steps toward notices of meetings that may be required. Think about the best way to accomplish these steps during social distancing, such as an online Zoom meeting
- Locate an SBA approved bank and express interest in applying as soon as possible. Request loan documentation requirements once published by the SBA.
As CCFA works to deploy those who will assist churches in their Paycheck Protection Program application, they pray for the health and wellbeing of all navigating these challenging times.
Click here for a very helpful FAQ prepared by Conference Treasurer David Dobbs.