John Litzler of Christian Unity Ministries recommends consulting with church leadership (remotely, for safety), following bylaw and voting requirements, contacting a local lender, and calculating the loan-request amount. For planning purposes, he says, the key is to know each employee’s total payroll costs.
If you’ve already had to lay off staff due to this crisis, suggest that they file for unemployment benefits immediately, experts say. These benefits are being extended as part of the CARES Act.
Other provisions that affect churches include adjustments to charitable-contribution rules. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) explains that individuals are being encouraged to make donations by the suspension of the 60 percent adjusted gross income limitation.
The act also provides “above-the-line deductions” for contributions to charity but only up to $300 and only for 2020. The ECFA says it pushed for a permanent Universal Charitable Deduction (known as the Lankford amendment), but that wasn’t included in the CARES Act.
South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who helped write the legislation, tweets: “As the CARES Act was being drafted, I worked to ensure nonprofits will receive support. Thankfully, nonprofits are now eligible for payroll loans, and charitable giving deductions are expanded to generate increased resources for those most in need.”
Retirees and older Americans, typically reliable donors to churches and nonprofits, are getting additional relief from the CARES Act. For the rest of 2020, required minimum distributions from retirement accounts are being suspended. And for anyone experiencing virus-related hardships, penalty-free withdrawals are being allowed on retirement plans. “For people who are in really bad shape, this may be their one emergency alternative,” says the AARP’s David Certner.
The pandemic’s spiritual implications could be enormous, too. “We are on the cusp of the greatest evangelistic moment in our lives that will lead to the exponential growth of the church,” writes Vanderbloemen’s Turner. “Once this crisis is over, people’s desire to return to church will be greater than ever before.”
With new avenues of assistance, more congregations have financial lifelines to continue operating until they can reopen their doors.