In March 2020, the diocese formed a COVID-19 Financial Aid Task Force to assist churches with financial issues they would most likely be facing during the COVID-19 crisis. Once the Trustees of the Diocese committed the funds necessary to make this assistance possible, a financial assistance webpage was quickly set up so congregations could easily apply for financial help online. Members of the diocesan staff were available to answer questions and facilitate the process. The objective was to get help in the hands of our congregations as quickly as possible.
The task force formulated a multi-prong approach to the evolving situation. They identified four areas of potential assistance:
ECM Emergency Grants: The first approach was Outreach. The task force realized that community outreach ministries were going to be immediately affected by shutting down in-person gatherings at local churches. Congregations in communities hardest hit by the economic fallout often have the lowest resources available to address escalating need. The task force quickly mobilized to make emergency funds available through Episcopal Community Ministries (ECM). Once Bishop Breidenthal committed matching funds from a grant by the William Cooper Procter Memorial Fund, a COVID-19 Matching Fund campaign was launched by ECM. A streamlined application process made it possible for outreach ministries to easily apply for emergency relief funds to address critical needs during the pandemic, like food, housing and emergency assistance. The match and donation funds received to date are $25,411. ECM has distributed $24,220 to ten ministries as of October 1.
Mission Share Deferment: The second approach was to allow parishes to defer their mission share payments for a maximum of six months. Four congregations opted for this solution so that they could free up resources to meet other challenges. The full monthly payments resume at the end of the deferment, along with a catch-up payment of all months deferred.
Church Pension Fund Waiver: The third approach was to take advantage of the Church Pension’s Group allowance for two months payment deferral of clergy pension fund assessments. None of our parishes elected to pursue this option.
Financial Assistance Grants/Loans: The final approach to tackling assistance was to allow parishes to apply for a loan/grant. The loan is a zero percent interest loan that is paid back monthly over one year. The grant portion came from COCL emergency funds along with a $25,000 donation from Christ Church Cathedral. The task force supplied nine congregations with $85,000 in loans, and with grants totaling $60,000. These loans/grants have been a great way for churches to bridge some of the challenges of maintaining their payroll and other expenses such as utilities and insurance during this time of decreased giving.
All of these funding approaches are still available to any congregation that wishes to apply. Please use this link https://dsoepiscopal.org/covid-19-financial-assistance/ to submit your application now.