NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Church abuse survivors demand an audit from the Archdiocese of New Orleans, after it received millions in small business loans meant as COVID-19 relief.
It comes not long after the Archdiocese filed Chapter 11 to reorganize its finances, citing the strain of clergy sex abuse settlements. Yet, Archdiocese reps say they never applied for those funds.
In documents released from the Department of the Treasury, Friday, the Small Business Association lists hundreds of companies or organizations that have received $150,000 or more in Paycheck Protection Program money.
Among the biggest scoring businesses was the Catholic Church.
"I don't think it's fair that we have to fund a corporation that doesn't pay for simple things like property tax," said Kevin Bourgeois.
Bourgeois is a representative with the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests.
“An ordinary Catholic who is outraged that a tax exempt corporation, like the Catholic Church, and the United States received one and a half billion dollars of taxpayer money,” Bourgeois said.
Nationwide, the Catholic Church was reported to have received $1.4 billion in small business loans through the CARES Act. Religious organizations are, ordinarily, ineligible to receive money from the SBA but when COVID hit, Congress made an exception.
According to the SBA, the Archdiocese of New Orleans received $2- $5 million in PPP money, but leaders with the Archdiocese say that's not entirely accurate.
In a statement, they indicate "the Administrative Office...did not apply for, nor did it receive financial assistance from the Federal government." It goes on to say "agencies, parishes and schools applied for the money independently to pay salaries for teachers, staff and employees...No funds from any federal assistance programs have been used to fund settlements for victim abuse of bankruptcy proceedings."
"I don't believe it. Prove it," countered Bourgeois. "Since we paid for these funds, we should have a right to know where the money went."
Bourgeois is not convinced the money is not going towards clergy sex abuse settlements, especially after the Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in order to reorganize its finances to pay for settlements.
"Audit. There should be a federal audit of these funds that were allegedly used to pay for payroll," Bourgeois said.
FOX 8 spoke to a New Orleans financial advisor who says businesses that apply for small business loans under the CARES Act are required to report all of their expenses. However, due to the initial exception made for religious organizations, he cannot be sure the Catholic Church is included.
Close to 1,400 religious organizations in Louisiana were granted P-PP loans under $150,000.