Washington, D.C.—Today, the religious equality watchdog organization American Atheists announced that the Trump Administration has spent at least $6 to $10 billion unconstitutionally bailing out houses of worship under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) run by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
American Atheists has identified a minimum of between $3.5 and $7 billion in forgivable loans of $150,000 or more that have gone to specific houses of worship. The Trump Administration’s decision to only release broad ranges of loan amounts makes it difficult to be more precise. For houses of worship receiving loans of less than $150,000, American Atheists found that they were awarded at least $2.7 billion, putting the church bailout total at between an estimated $6.2 and $9.7 billion at a minimum. While funds awarded under PPP are structured as loans, the fact that they are 100% forgivable makes these payments, in effect, grants to the funded businesses and organizations.
“Due to the Trump Administration’s unwillingness to provide full disclosure, we have had to work with limited data. Yet the picture is clear: this is an unprecedented giveaway to religious organizations,” said Alison Gill, Vice President of Legal and Policy at American Atheists.
SBA released this incomplete data in response to multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, including American Atheists’ from June 16.
“Americans have a right to know exactly how much of their tax dollars are unconstitutionally propping up churches, and the Trump Administration cannot be allowed to leave Americans in the dark. American Atheists will continue to demand full transparency,” said Gill.
In addition, American Atheists estimated that another $4 to $8 billion of taxpayer money has gone to private schools, most of which are religious.
“In two months, the Trump Administration has given churches and religious schools more money than double the CDC’s annual budget of $6.5 billion,” said Nick Fish, president of American Atheists. “If that doesn’t make it crystal clear what this administration’s priorities are, nothing will.”