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AP: After lobbying, Catholic Church won $1.4B in virus aid

FILE -- Parishioners pray from their car as Fr. Steve Buno, Pastor of St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church in Harahan, La., performs drive-thru Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, as a form of social distancing due to the new coronavirus, during Holy Week, Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid. In totaling the church’s haul, 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 Paycheck Protection Program the church tapped was intended to help small businesses and nonprofits pay workers amid a cratering economy. The church maximized its take 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.