Episcopal Diocese of Virginia PPP application raises questions

Members of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia are very familiar with the recent “Shout it from the Mountaintop,” campaign to fund capital expenses and improvements at one of the two diocesan retreats, Shrine Mont. But a review of Shine Mont Paycheck Protection Program loan information, together with Shrine Mont’s 990’s (federal tax forms), raise issues regarding the potential accuracy of its application for federal funds.

By way of background, Shrine Mont is a privately held corporation, with all 370 shares held by the Episcopal bishop of Virginia. The board of directors reads like a who’s who of the Mayo House inner circle, and the 990 shows that neither the bishop nor any of the board members are paid. The highest paid employee is Kevin Moomaw, whose salary was $93,752 in 2019.

Otherwise, Shrine Mont expended $1,025,242 in total salaries, with most of the rest of the budget going for food and maintenance.

In terms of overall financial posture and liquidity, Shrine Mount certainly sits on a mountain — a mountain of money.

In addition to almost $1.37 million in cash and cash equivalents, Shrine Mont holds almost $3.5 million in investments, for a total of just shy of $4.8 million. And that excludes the endowment, which ended 2019 with just shy of $1.2 million.

Here is Shrine Mont’s 990:


Payroll protection program data

Where things get a little weird though is the Shrine Mont Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan itself.

Per federal disclosures, Shrine Mont got a loan of $301,902, which originated with the Farmer’s and Merchants Bank. Under PPP guidelines that suggests a 2019 payroll of approximately $1.45 million, which is not wildly off the mark once indirects are included.

But what is curious is that the loan application, which was approved on April 10, 2020, suggests 38 jobs were retained. That, of course, was before the busy summer season, and prior to the announcement that, except for some very limited events, Shrine Mont would not open this year. Moreover, PPP guidelines would suggest an average salary of $38,135 per employee, using the normal formula.

In fairness, different types of entities have different means of calculating payroll under PPP, so some variance is possible. But it is difficult to imagine what comprises the 38 jobs allegedly saved, particularly with an annual salary of $38,135, or even anything close to that. Here is the federalpay.org analysis:

Meanwhile, with the vast majority of the budget comprised of food and salaries, there’s not a whole lot of carrying costs for the empty buildings, and Shrine Mont has plenty of cash on hand to survive.

That raises questions:

  • What are these 38 jobs that allegely were saved? Most of the summer help — kitchen, cleaning crew, etc. likely hadn’t been hired in April, and probably never were hired for 2020. And one has to seriously doubt that there are 38 year-round jobs at Shrine Mont.
  • If these jobs indeed exist, what are they?
  • Were these people on payroll at the time of the loan application or during the summer?
  • How many people does it take to run a largely empty facility?

In short, while there’s no evidence of anything illegal, one certainly wonders how the diocese came up with the 38 allegedly saved jobs. And while the federal programs allows considerable leeway regarding use of the funds, one certainly hopes that the diocese’s application was truthful and accurate in every way.

At the same time, given dearth of detail the diocese shares about its budget and inner workings, it is good to see some glimmer of financial transparency via Shrine Mont’s 990.

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