Financial Relief for Congregations During the Pandemic

Congregations have a variety of options for financial relief during the pandemic. Some details and recommendations are posted below. Any congregation seeking financial relief is urged first to email Canon Cindy Dougan, canon for finance, or Maria Manocchio, missioner for finance, to discuss best options and how the partnership dioceses can be of assistance.

Paycheck Protection Act

The Paycheck Protection Act, part of the CARES Act signed into law on March 27, offers low-interest, potentially forgivable loans to small businesses, including non-profit organizations. Institutions may borrow up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll. Part or all of the loans may be forgiven if institutions meet criteria that are still being established. Amounts that are not forgiven will be amortized over a period of up to two years at an interest rate of 1%, and payments will begin after six months.

Bishop Rowe believes the best use of federal funds provided through the Payroll Protection Act is to keep small businesses afloat during this time. Many of those companies employ economically vulnerable people in our region, and helping to preserve those jobs, as well as the overall economic health of our region, is a significant contribution to the common good. He advises that churches rely on their own resources, or on resources available through the diocese. He recommends that congregations with immediate issues that may result in the inability to meet payroll contact Canon Cindy Dougan or Maria Manocchio to explore how the resources of the partnership dioceses can provide relief where needed.

If congregations wish to apply for Paycheck Protection Act loans, more information on how to do so is available from the Small Business Administration and from eligible lenders.

Please consider the following before making a decision on the matter:

  1. The rules and regulations of the program have not yet been fully released. At this time, people applying for relief have been given contradictory information. As of April 4, 2020, the SBA released a list of FAQ’s applicable to Faith Based Entities. Please read them carefully. We have provided a copy of those FAQ’s with appropriate highlighting.
  2. Remember that what a Parish would be applying for is an unsecured loan, so please bear in mind diocesan canons regarding indebtedness.

In Northwestern Pennsylvania, Diocesan Canon 8. C. provides that “no … indebtedness shall be incurred by Congregation of this Diocese without the consent and approval of the Bishop Diocesan, if there is one, and the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Council. No consent and approval shall be granted unless there is a reasonable plan for the repayment of all such obligations.”

In Western New York, Canon 13 section 8 provides:

(1) No indebtedness shall be incurred by a parish, mission or congregation without the prior written consent of the Bishop and Standing Committee, except:

(i) Indebtedness, not secured by a mortgage, for permanent improvements, replacement of or additions to real property or equipment; provided the amount of such indebtedness, plus indebtedness of every kind already existing shall not exceed 50% of the average annual receipts of such parish, mission or congregation during the past three years;

(ii) Indebtedness for current expenses where the amount of such indebtedness, plus all indebtedness heretofore incurred for current expenses and still existing, shall not exceed 20% of the total current receipts of such parish, mission or congregation during the preceding fiscal year; and the payment of all such indebtedness shall be provided for in the budget for the next fiscal year with reasonable expectation of its payment out of the receipts for the next two years.

(2) In computing receipts under Subsection (1) hereof, amounts from or for endowments and from or by bequests, other than income therefrom not specially designated and receipts from expenditures other than those parochial, shall not be included.

(3) Under any circumstance in which approval to incur indebtedness is required, such approval may be granted only upon submission to and approval by the Bishop and Standing Committee of a plan demonstrating satisfactory prospects for the payment of such indebtedness.

You may wish to consult with separate counsel for the parish on these matters. Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

Church Pension Fund Relief

The Church Pension Fund is offering a 90-day grace period, ending June 30, for payments of:

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

Learn more on the Church Pension Fund website.

In addition, the Episcopal Church Medical Trust will waive all co-pays, deductibles, and coinsurance for its members for healthcare services relating to the evaluation and testing for COVID-19. In addition, the Medical Trust will waive all co-pays, deductibles, and in-network coinsurance for its active members for healthcare services relating to the treatment of COVID-19. Learn more on the Church Pension Fund website. In addition, the Medical Trust will allow claims for virtual provider appointments and will waive member costs for healthcare plan telehealth services for the rest of the year. Learn more.

Although the Church Pension Fund is offering a two-month waiver for payment of clergy pension assessments to certain congregations, please know that congregations in the partnership dioceses do not qualify for this waiver.

Partnership Dioceses Relief

While our buildings are closed, we encourage people whose incomes are uninterrupted to make pledge payments or gifts to any congregation using our online giving page. The diocese will absorb payment processing fees while our churches remain closed.

Bishop Rowe and his staff are available to provide assistance, advice, and practical and financial relief for up to 60 days where needed to partnership congregations. To discuss your congregation’s specific situation and needs, please contact Canon Cindy Dougan, canon for finance, or Maria Manocchio, missioner for finance.