What a six-month period. Few saw this coming. Even before the calendar turned to 2020, Catholic dioceses and archdioceses faced a growing pressure on financial resources; attendance challenges, questions regarding financial resources and accountability, and lack of students enrolled in Catholic schools. But at the beginning of March 2020, the economy roared to life, with record highs for the stock market. Economically, things were looking good. Then came an unexpected shutdown of most states and the global economy.
The nationwide COVID-19 shutdown closed churches and halted collections. Church, school and diocesan revenues plummeted. Dioceses have large staffs and wanted to take care of their employees. Furloughs were avoided by most, but not all. As dioceses nationwide begin to slowly return to the workplace and reopen churches and schools, additional funding is critical. Dioceses are taking every precaution available to help keep churchgoers, students, faculty and others safe from any potential outbreak.
Capital resources for archdioceses and dioceses
Staffing costs and emergency preparedness require capital— significant amounts of capital. As our federal government took steps to help, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided relief that was made available to Roman Catholic dioceses. This helped address staffing costs, and PPP loans are forgivable. Continue to monitor communication from your lending institution and check available resources for information on loan forgiveness.
The federal government has additionally allocated some capital resources through the Stafford Act. While the Stafford Act program is known as public support, private nonprofit organizations are also eligible for assistance. This program is offered through a coordinate of FEMA and each state’s office of emergency management (OEM). The public assistance portion of the Stafford Act, Category B. FEMA is best known for its role in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and its immediate response to natural disasters.
For a diocese or archdiocese to pursue financial support is to engage with its local OEM. Once the diocese applies, an interview is held by the state OEM to verify eligibility. Upon award, the diocese can gather relevant data and apply directly to FEMA for assistance. Assistance is paid at 75% of incurred costs for eligible expenses. Eligible expenses would include operating costs to continue program services or safeguards taken to protect constituents, like online delivery costs for educational programs, durable cleaning supplies, wipes, disinfectant or social distancing apparatus. All expenses included are subject to FEMA review and approval.
Timing is important. Costs dating back to the initial emergency declaration are considered eligible. However, each diocese must apply for assistance prior to the disaster period ending. The end date is unknown at this time and may vary by state.
Navigating FEMA can be a challenge. As part of the Stafford Act, consulting costs can also be included as part of the grant program. Dioceses around the U.S. have received awards and are actively submitting costs to FEMA for reimbursement.