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PPP loan helps local diocese preserve jobs

The biggest federal loans to preserve jobs were approved to save nearly 14,000 jobs in Blair County, figures from the Small Business Administration show.

A check of an SBA spreadsheets of approved Paycheck Protection Program loans of $150,000 or more showed the 240 loans approved in that category were designed to retain 13,780 jobs in Blair County.

Companies from sole proprietorships to corporations, as well as nonprofit entities and others could apply for forgiveable loans to help cover employees and other costs. Those approved still can opt out of the program.

Preserving jobs was the intent behind the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown applying for and receiving a loan of between $350,000 and $1 million. For loans over $150,000 the SBA is releasing the name of the recipient and a general range the loan fell in. For loans under $150,000, the government is releasing the exact loan amount but not the recipient’s name.

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, and various parishes and schools in the diocese applied for and received funding through the Paycheck Protection Program, diocese spokesman Tony DeGol said in an email Friday evening.

The email came in response to a question from the Mirror in hopes of including it in an Associated Press story in the Saturday-Sunday Mirror. That story noted how the Catholic church nationwide was the beneficiary of at least $1.4 billion in PPP loans.

DeGol’s email was received but not seen until the presses were started. His reply was incorporated in the Mirror’s online story.

“The diocese, parishes, and schools are using all monies received from the program for payroll expenses to keep essential workers employed so that we can continue the mission of the Church,” DeGol wrote.

SBA figures show the diocese’s PPP loan was designed to keep 58 people employed.

“In the early months of the pandemic, public Masses were not celebrated and in-person classes at schools were canceled. Without parishioners in the pews, we did not know what to expect regarding a regular offertory. We were also concerned that many families who were struggling financially would be unable to pay tuition. Most fundraisers that help support parishes and schools were also halted,” DeGol wrote.

Two independently operated Catholic schools in Blair County also received PPP loans. Holy Trinity’s loan was to cover payroll for 63 people, while Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School secured a loan to retain 38 staff members.

DeGol wrote, “Regardless of the financial challenges we were facing, we knew the good work of the Church had to continue. Our buildings were not open, but the Church never closed. Priests celebrated private Masses — many of which were broadcast on television or live-streamed; priests buried the dead and anointed the gravely ill; Catholic education continued virtually; and Catholic Charities served individuals and families — especially those in need during these challenging times.

“In order for us to continue the ministry and mission of the Church, we need people, and we need to be able to pay those people so they can earn a living. We already operate with a very slim staff, so every worker is essential. Thanks to the assistance of the PPP, we have been able to fulfill our obligation to provide for the spiritual well-being of our faithful, educate our youth, and care for the needy and vulnerable among us — all at a time when it is needed the most,” DeGol wrote.

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