The U.S. Roman Catholic Church, including some parishes in the Buffalo diocese, used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid.
In total, the Associated Press also found tens of millions of dollars went to dioceses whose financial stress was due not simply to the pandemic, but also to recent payouts to victims of clergy sex abuse.
The church maximized its take from the Payroll Protection Program after lobbying for an exemption that gave all religious groups preferential treatment. That helped make the Catholic Church among the biggest winners in the U.S. government's pandemic relief efforts.
Buffalo Catholic Diocese Spokesperson Greg Tucker said local parishes are incorporated separately from the diocese. He said some applied independently to the program and were granted funds, but the diocese itself did not receive any.
"It is important to note that these independently incorporated parish entities - in addition to being places of worship - operate schools and carry out a wide range of vital social services for their members and the broader community," Tucker said in a statement to WBFO.
Tucker did not specify the dollar amount received locally.
In June, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the diocese's attempt to receive $1.7 million in PPP funds. The Rochester Catholic Diocese also had its attempt dismissed.
In February, the diocese filed bankruptcy, but some bankrupt businesses have been granted a temporary exemption in order to receive coronavirus loans to help pay employee costs.