He pastors one of the largest, most influential, and wealthiest churches in the United States, but that doesn't mean that Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church wouldn't take advantage of the government's PPP Loans. It's estimated that Osteen himself is worth upwards of $100 million and reportedly calls his $10 million estate home, so it came as a surprise to learn that Lakewood Church acquired a $4.4 million PPP—Paycheck Protection Program—Loan through the COVID-19 relief program.

Osteen, Lakewood Church, PPP Loans
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The Houston church reportedly has 368 part-time and full-time employees and the PPP Loan went to caring for their needs. The pandemic loan was at one time was in the top three largest distributed over the summer. The New York Post reported that because the ability to meet in-person was curbed to help stop the spread of coronavirus, it's hurt the church's "ability to collect substantial donations during those services.”

“Believing the shutdown would only last a few weeks, Lakewood did not initially apply for PPP assistance during the first half of the program,” said spokesman Donald Iloff said. “However, as the shutdown persisted month after month, given the economic uncertainty, Lakewood finally applied for the PPP loan and has been able to provide full salaries and benefits including health insurance coverage to all of its employees and their families.”

Iloff added that Osteen and his wife haven't collected a salary from the church since 2004 and the PPP Loan didn't personally benefit them. Osteen, who has been close friends with Kanye West, hasn't released a statement regarding the controversy. Check out a few reactions to the news below.