After coronavirus empties parishioners’ pockets, churches get a government boost

Since the coronavirus pandemic forced his church’s doors to shutter and confined his congregants to their homes, Dexter Easley, the pastor of the New Life Christian Fellowship in Goose Creek, S.C., has been overseeing deliveries of food and cleaning materials to families in the community.

At the same time, he has been doing everything to keep his eight employees on the payroll and said he’s prepared to reach into his own pocket if necessary to avoid furloughs.

A new $350 billion fund could now allow him to keep paying staff as revenue dries up and resources grow more scarce.

“The needs of the church, in meeting the community needs, continues to expand,” said U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who has worked closely with Easley over the past few weeks.

Responding to Easley’s plight, and that of thousands of others, Scott fought to ensure houses of worship, along with nonprofits, were eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal initiative intended to keep small businesses afloat during stay-at-home orders.

Scott has also had his own full schedule of webinars, virtual town halls and Zoom conferences to speak to pastors and faith leaders about how to access the new loan program and discuss other challenges churches are facing in the current environment.

He said that churches, particularly in black communities, are offering key services during the crisis and need to have the resources to continue to deliver to them.

“African American pastors’ phones were ringing off the hook from their parishioners who were (needing) more meals for their kids,” Scott said, referring to students who could no longer get free lunches they relied on now that schools were closed for the pandemic.

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