Vermont Religious Groups Receive Millions in Federal Coronavirus Aid | Politics | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Vermont Religious Groups Receive Millions in Federal Coronavirus Aid

by and

Published July 14, 2020 at 9:34 p.m.
Updated July 15, 2020 at 10:01 a.m.

Bishop Christopher Coyne. - FILE: SASHA GOLDSTEIN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Sasha Goldstein ©️ Seven Days
  • Bishop Christopher Coyne.

More than 180 of Vermont’s churches and religious groups collectively got more than $6 million in COVID-19 aid, according to Seven Days’ analysis of federal data.

Most of the religious beneficiaries of the CARES Act-funded Paycheck Protection Program received forgivable loans of less than $50,000 — below the threshold at which the feds made a beneficiary’s name public.

But a dozen or so got higher amounts. Most of that went to schools or groups that operate them. Rock Point School on the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont’s Burlington property received between $150,000 and $350,000, while Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, a Catholic institution, got between $350,000 and $1 million.

Congress enabled churches and faith-based institutions to tap the PPP to pay salaries and utility bills while worship services were disrupted. The provision allowed Essex Alliance Church, a large evangelical congregation, and Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington to receive between $150,000 and $350,000 each.

Catholic dioceses obtained at least $1.4 billion nationally at a time when some of them face sexual abuse lawsuits, the Associated Press reported last week.

The Burlington diocese has paid out more than $30 million to sex abuse survivors over the years, and last year Bishop Christopher Coyne suggested the church didn’t have much left for those still coming forward.

The total awarded to Vermont Catholic entities is at least $1.1 million and may be significantly higher. Neither the diocese nor Vermont Catholic Charities responded to a request for comment.

Christ the King-St. Anthony parish in Burlington, St. Monica in Barre and St. Francis Xavier in Winooski each received more than $150,000, the data show. All three parishes also operate schools. Vermont Catholic Charities, which runs several eldercare homes, among other endeavors, received between $350,000 and $1 million.

In a Facebook post, St. Monica disclosed and defended its $150,000 award.

“None of the money was used to pay off abuse claims, or was sent to the Diocese to pay off abuse claims,” the parish wrote.

About two-thirds of its money went to pay teacher salaries at the affiliated St. Monica-St. Michael School. Without it, “the loss of our Spring fundraiser, Super Bingo, and regular Bingo, would have been devastating,” the parish wrote. “So please don’t listen to any report that implies the Church should not have received the money.”

The original print version of this article was headlined "Manna From Washington, D.C."