Taos County religious organizations received over $240,000 in federal paycheck protection plan loans.
The loans, designed to help small business employers retain their workers, came as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act.
Hundreds of thousands of federal dollars went to a number of nonprofits across the state including churches and other religious organizations during the coronavirus pandemic. Churches like Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Taos say the loans were a much needed breath of fresh air during financial hardships.
"We take hits when we don't have the proper collections," said Father Daniel Gutierrez, pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. "Between utilities, maintenance of all the buildings and in keeping our employees and their families fed, we needed the loans."
In-person services at Our Lady of Guadalupe were suspended in March, as they were at many churches, and have not been reinstated since due to possible spread of the virus. Mass has largely been available via livestream on social media and Gutierrez said he will not reopen until it is safe to do so.
This takes a hit on the church as they rely on donations from the community to keep the lights on.
Gutierrez said the church received the loan in May and has been able to keep his seven staff at the parish because of the assistance.
"We would have preserved, but barely," Gutierrez said. "Our people are generous and they're doing their best."
Among the churches that received federal funds, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe received nearly $1 million. A company filing under the Catholic Cemetery Association, and using the same address of the archdiocese, received between $350,000 and $1 million.
"We are thankful to receive this lifeline which has enabled us to retain our dedicated employees who continue their vital service ministries to our greater community which has been drastically affected by this pandemic," said Archbishop John C. Wester in a statement. "May we continue to keep all our sisters and brothers who are struggling physically, spiritually and economically in prayer and for our public health workers and scientists that they may soon find a cure."
The funds must be spent on payroll expenses and can be used, in a small amount, for utilities payments. In addition, the loans can be used for mortgage interest payment and rent or lease payments.
Loans have an interest rate of 1 percent and payments are deferred for the first six months. Businesses and nonprofits must pay the loans back, however there are several opportunities for loan forgiveness.
In order to apply for loan forgiveness, an organization must prove they retained their employees, used the funds for their approved purposes and used the funds within eight weeks of receiving them.
"If my employees could run without it, I wouldn't push it and allow those funds to go to someone else," Gutierrez said.
Parishioners of the church have been hit hard by the economic downfall caused by the state's efforts to contain the pandemic, according to Gutierrez. Despite the hardships, he said the community is still making donations when they are able to.
Due to the loan payments, religious organizations in Taos County were able to retain a total of 69 jobs from the $240,418, according to information released by the federal Small Business Administration.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe recently challenged the U.S. Small Business Administration in court for the ability to apply for the loans. The April court case regarded an applicant's eligibility to apply for the PPP funds while undergoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is facing nearly 400 claims in its pending bankruptcy proceeding that was filed in 2018 -- all related to a clergy sex abuse scandal.
Despite being involved in bankruptcy proceedings, the organization was able to apply for a nearly $1 million loan.
On the national level, the Catholic Church received nearly $1.4 billion in CARES act funds.