Scores of Roman Catholic dioceses in the U.S. had more than $10 billion in cash and other readily available funds when they received at least $1.5 billion from the nation's emergency relief program for small businesses slammed by the coronavirus, an Associated Press investigation has found.
The financial resources of several dioceses rivaled or exceeded those available to publicly traded companies — like Shake Shack and Ruth's Chris Steak House — whose participation in the Paycheck Protection Program triggered outrage last spring.
The taxpayer-backed aid was supposed to help recipients that lacked the kind of financial safety net that cash and short-term assets provide.
While dioceses, their churches and schools went into the pandemic with billions, the cash catastrophe church leaders feared did not materialize, AP found. New financial statements that several dozen dioceses have posted for 2020 show available resources improved despite the pandemic's hard, early months — the same time they sought paycheck protection aid.
AP's analysis focused on available assets because federal officials tied those metrics to program eligibility. Therefore, the $10 billion AP identified doesn't count important financial pillars of the church in the U.S., including its real estate holdings and an estimated $9.5 billion held by charitable foundations created to help dioceses.