‘Our churches are the heart and soul of this nation, and this can be their finest hour…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Republican and Democratic representatives sent a letter to the heads of the Treasury Department, Labor Department and Small Business Administration, asking them to ensure that churches have access to coronavirus relief funds, according to a press release from Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.
Some religious leaders said provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act needed to be clarified. They worried that the law would let only tax-exempt groups collect the money if they were designated as nonprofits by the Internal Revenue Service.
The federal government regards all churches as tax-exempt, so they do not need to apply for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Some church leaders thought the lack of formal 501(c)(3) status would impede their ability to benefit from the CARES Act.
Johnson and fellow Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise wrote the letter, along with Democratic Reps. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana and James Clyburn of South Carolina.
“It was clearly the intent of Congress to make certain that America’s churches and religious institutions have the exact same access to relief through the CARES Act as all other non-profit organizations, and we need that to be affirmed immediately by the executive branch,” Johnson said.
“Our churches are the heart and soul of this nation, and this can be their finest hour, and there is no justification why our government should unjustly leave them behind during these difficult times,” he continued.
The IRS allows churches to apply for formal tax-exempt status so that they are not accidentally excluded from tax benefits, but most churches do not submit applications due to the administrative and legal fees.
“Places of worship are the center of many of the communities in my congressional district, and they are suffering as a result of the necessary social distancing measures that are in place,” Clyburn said.
“Congress clearly did not intend that churches’ eligibility for relief under the CARES Act should depend on previously filling out a form that was not legally required,” he added. “Such an arbitrary requirement, if imposed, would add insult to injury for many of the most vulnerable communities I represent.”