Broward County church received COVID relief loan but state has no record of any of the employees

Broward County church received COVID relief loan but state has no record of any of the employees
Patsy Lynch/FEMA/Wikimedia Commons

Shawnee, OK, May 29, 2010 --Small Business Administration(SBA) workers assist applicants at a Disaster Recovery Center(DRC) in Shawnee, OK. FEMA is working with local, state and other federal agencies to provide assistance to individuals who were affected by recent tornadoes in Oklahoma.

A church belonging to a Tamarac, Fla. city commissioner received more than $36,000 in COVID relief funding for its employees facing financial hardships, but public records suggest that the church may not have been eligible to receive the funding.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, Tamarac Commissioner Marlon Bolton who also serves as the pastor and president of the Praise Experience World Outreach Church in North Lauderdale, Fla., received a total of two loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) records show that the church received a $25,300 loan on May 1, 2020, and an additional $11,000 on March 3, 2021.

For each of the church's loans, a total of 12 employees were reported. The publication reports that Florida law requires employers to "provide workers' compensation insurance for their employees," however, the church "provided no record of having the employees, as is required."

If the church is found in violation of the state's worker compensation law, it could face "fines, citations or criminal charges," according to the Florida Department of Financial Services. To make matters worse, the state agency's website also indicates that businesses in violation could be forced to pause daily operations until they are in compliance with state law.

John O'Brien, press secretary for the Florida Department of Financial Services, briefly spoke out about the church's employment records confirming that no such records were found.

"We did look up Praise Experience World Outreach Church Inc. and Marlon Bolton in our Division of Workers' Compensation Portal and have found no records," O'Brien said.

Victoria Guerrero, a spokesperson for the SBA, also spoke out with details about the PPP requirements as she noted that "all PPP borrowers must certify they meet the eligibility requirements and attest to having lost 25% in revenue."

"These compliance checks are part of a new process established for PPP loans made in 2021," Guerrero said. "Unlike in the first rounds of PPP in 2020, SBA loan guarantees are contingent on passing these front-end SBA compliance checks during the application process."

The latest reports about the Florida church come as the SBA faces an onslaught of PPP applications for struggling businesses who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Karl Olson, an attorney for the American Small Business League in California, weighed in on the purpose of the loan program as he noted some of the challenges it is currently facing.

Olson said, "You have a situation where they were rushing a lot of money out the door and they didn't want to put too many bureaucratic hoops in the way of small businesses and force them to go through too much red tape."

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