Financial Relief for Congregations During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, financial assistance is available to congregations in the Diocese of Chicago from the federal government, the Church Pension Fund and the bishop’s office. Here are details about each form of relief currently available:

Paycheck Protection Program 

Updated July 10, 2020:

The deadline for Paycheck Protection Program loans has been extended to August 8. Applications are made through your bank using this link:

Please contact Keith Kampert or Courtney Reid with any questions.


The CARES Act, a two trillion-dollar federal economic stimulus bill, was passed and signed on March 27. It includes a provision offering forgivable loans—meaning you may not have to pay them back—to small businesses, including non-profits, for the purpose of maintaining payroll and paying other qualified expenses, including mortgage interest, rent, and utilities. The maximum amount of the loan is 2.5 times the organization’s average monthly payroll expenditure over the previous twelve months, including most employee benefits, pension contributions, and employer 403(b) contributions. The amount available from the federal government to issue these loans is capped, and churches should apply as soon as possible.

The loans are backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) but are administered by banks. Download the SBA’s FAQs for faith-based organizations. Download the SBA’s FAQs for faith-based organizations. You may seek loans from any Small Business Administration-approved lender. Due to the size of the program, banks that have previously not worked with the Small Business Association are now doing so. Contact your bank to see if you can apply through them. If you have questions about your application, please email Courtney Reid.

You can find the loan application here. Here are some notes for completing your application:

  • The application asks for information about and signatures of owners. Nonprofits, including churches, do not have owners, so these fields can be skipped.
  • The form asks for the number of employees you have. This should be your average headcount over the last 12 months. The count should be number of people – there is no differentiation between full-time and part-time employees for the purpose of this question.
  • Special rules apply for any employees whose earnings (including salary, housing allowance, and SECA reimbursement) exceed $100,000.
  • It is unclear whether the portion of clergy compensation classified as housing or utility allowance should be included when calculating average monthly payroll. The most recent information we have is that it should be included. Follow your lender’s instructions.

While we are still awaiting specific guidance about exactly what documentation will be required alongside the application, congregations can begin preparing by assembling the following information. It is possible that not all of this information will be required. It is also possible that other information not listed here will be required. This list is based on the guidance we have at the moment, and additional information is emerging quickly.

  • Organizational documents such as bylaws, articles of incorporation, IRS 501(c)3 letter (please email Rebecca Elfring-Roberts if you need your 501(c)3 letter)
  • Copies of driver’s license, passport, or other proof of identity, of parish officers (rector/priest-in-charge, wardens, treasurer)
  • Proof of payroll for the last 12 months. Because it is not yet clear exactly what time frame will be requested, you should assemble payroll data beginning January 1, 2019 through the present. This documentation should include payroll summaries and bank statements from the same period. Quarterly IRS forms 940 and 941 may be required. If you do not have this information at hand, please contact your payroll provider.
  • Statements indicating a breakdown of payroll-associated benefits, including pension payments, employer paid 403(b) contributions, health insurance, health savings account contributions, and dental insurance (if paid by the employer).
  • Recent mortgage or rent statements (if applicable).
  • Recent utility bills.

About loan forgiveness

Most or all of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan is forgivable, provided these standards are met:

  • Loan proceeds must be spent on qualifying expenses: payroll and associated benefits, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest, within eight weeks following the issuance of the loan.
  • Staff and payroll must be maintained for the eight-week period after the loan is issued.
  • While not required, it is advisable that churches set up a separate account for administration of loan proceeds, to make it easier to document compliance with these standards.
  • For any portion of the loan not forgiven, payments may be deferred for six months, with a maximum 2-year term, an interest rate of 1%, and no prepayment penalty.

PPP loans are unsecured, so they may be applied for without the approval of the Standing Committee. However, according to Canon 20, Section 6, “No Parish may borrow money on an unsecured basis, if, after giving effect to such borrowing, the aggregate indebtedness of the Parish for money borrowed on an unsecured basis is greater than 33-1/3 per cent of the average of the annual income (excluding income allocated for purposes other than current expenditures) of the Parish for its three fiscal years next preceding the date of the proposed borrowing.” For most congregations, this canon will not be an impediment to applying for a PPP loan, since the amount of 2.5 times monthly payroll is likely to be less than the threshold established by the canon. If you are unsure how to calculate this amount, please email Anna Stefaniak.

On April 3, Bishop’s staff members and Marc O’Brien, special counsel at Much Shelist, P.C. and chancellor to Bishop and Trustees, hosted a Zoom meeting to address questions about applying for the Paycheck Protection Program and how to apply. A recording of that meeting, plus additional supporting documents, are linked below:

Other Financial Relief in the CARES Act

Other types of federal relief may be available in the CARES Act as state guidelines are developed. If your congregation has laid any employees off since March 1, please email Rebecca Elfring-Roberts so we can monitor the situation for you.


Financial Relief Available through Church Pension Group

CPG is offering a two-month waiver for payment of clergy pension assessments to congregations that meet a narrow set of criteria. Learn more on the CPG website and if you believe your congregation may qualify, please make a request via email to Anne Cothran.

For all congregations, CPG is providing a 90-day payment grace period, ending June 30, 2020, for the following payments:

  • Pension assessments;
  • Health and dental insurance premiums due to the Medical Trust;
  • Property & casualty insurance premiums and life insurance premiums due to the Church Insurance Company; and
  • Disability insurance premiums to companies administered through CPG.

Learn more on the CPG website. If you have questions about eligibility for financial relief from the Church Pension Fund, please email Courtney Reid.

Financial Relief Available through the Bishop’s Office

Emergency Relief for Mission Congregations: At its regularly scheduled meeting on March 17, Bishop and Trustees created a $100,000 pool of emergency funding. Mission congregations wishing to apply for emergency assistance should contact their trustee liaison or email Tom Camell.

Emergency Relief for Parishes: Utilizing Bishop’s Funds, Bishop Lee has created a $100,000 pool of emergency funding. He has appointed a small subcommittee to respond swiftly to emergency funding needs, composed of Kara Wagner-Sherer, Marvin Hill, Andrea Mysen and Courtney Reid. Congregations wishing to apply for emergency assistance should email Courtney Reid.

Online giving service: While our church buildings are closed, we want to help congregations encourage their members and friends to make pledge payments and gifts. If your congregation needs to set up online giving, please email Rebecca Elfring-Roberts in the bishop’s office.

Common Mission Share Relief: During the COVID-19 pandemic, the bishop’s staff is working from home, and the ministry of the diocese continues. Congregations are urged to continue paying their common mission share pledges if they are able to do so. Congregations that anticipate difficulty in paying their common mission share pledges are asked to email Keith Kampert with more information.

Bishop Lee and his staff are working to respond to the needs of congregations at this uncertain time. Although the relief measures listed above will help alleviate financial difficulties, congregations are sure to face questions about how to continue ministry with limited resources. Please contact Bishop Lee or members of his staff with questions, concerns, or requests for assistance.

We are grateful to the Diocese of Indianapolis for providing much of the information posted above.