After reviewing recently published Form 990s, Trinity Foundation has reported two of three non-profit organizations affiliated with Bill Johnson’s California megachurch Bethel Redding for possible Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan fraud.
Trinity Foundation reported Bethel Media and Bethel School of Technology, but not Bethel Music, to the Small Business Administration. Let’s take a look at their loans and Form 990s.
The loan program was authorized by Congress to help small businesses and non-profit organizations retain employees during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, all three organizations report zero employees on page one of their latest Form 990s, but it is possible they use independent contractors.
(Photo: Bethel Media Form 990, page 1, line 5 reports zero employees.)
In 2020, Bethel Media received a PPP loan for retaining 77 jobs and in 2021 received a second loan for retaining 50 jobs. According to ProPublica’s Tracking PPP database, Bethel Media received $496,300 for each year.
(Photo: Bethel Media Form 990 page 10)
Bethel Media’s most recent Form 990 also reports no compensation expenses. So, did Bethel Media really have any employees or just volunteers?
In 2020, Bethel School of Technology received a PPP loan for $230,000 to retain 23 jobs. However, the only Form 990 available for Bethel School of Technology was filed for the fiscal year October 4, 2017, to July 31, 2018, and reported zero employees. However, the 990 does report “other salaries and wages” expenses. Anyone working for the organization would have been paid as an independent contractor.
Because Bethel School of Technology apparently failed to file a Form 990 (which is a requirement for non-profit organizations) for the next two fiscal years, the Small Business Administration should investigate to determine if the organization continued operating and how many people it employed.
In 2020, Bethel Music received a $852,200 PPP loan for retaining 58 jobs. The organization is current in filing a Form 990 which reports “salaries and wages” expenses. Bethel Music could legally pay independent contractors with a PPP loan.
All four loans have been forgiven by the United States government. Taxes will cover the cost of forgiving the loans, interest and service fees which add up to $2,093,933.