Dear Advent family ....
How I missed seeing you yesterday on Easter Sunday! It warmed my heart immensely to see so many of your faces on the photos and videos Pastor Ward added to the service. I really really look forward to when we can all be together again!
This note is to bring you up on the measures we have taken to cut down on church expenses during this critical time period. Some of these measures were implemented right away when it became apparent life was changing drastically but some are more recent and we continue to look for ways to help us financially survive this crisis.
- All spending from the budget has been suspended except for utilities, salaries, benefits and emergency purchases.. Payments are being reviewed beforehand to ensure they are for absolutely essential expenses and prior approval must be given before any spending.
- Spending has been suspended temporarily from the Jubilee Capital Fund except for those items completed prior to March 15 or that will enhance the capability to enhance recording and audio for church services.
- The lawn contract for the church was reduced from $450 a month for weekly service to no more than 2 times month and will be billed per service at $125 a visit.
- The lawn contract at Wubben-Smith House was suspended for April.
- The cleaning contract for the church was suspended for the month of April at a savings of $1825.
- Synod Benevolence offering has been reduced from $1700 a month to $500 a month with the understanding we may have to go to zero. It is further understood that we will try to make up the shortfall when we get back on our feet. Any offerings made by members to the Synod Benevolence special fund will be sent to the Synod monthly as per our normal operations.
- APS has suspended the dumpster pick-up for the month of April. They paid this monthly fee from their budget.
- We have just completed negotiations with Mission Investment Fund to pay interest only on our mortgage for May 1 and June 1 and it can be extended to July 1 if necessary. This reduces our mortgage from $7249 to $2047 or slightly lower each month. The missed principal payments will be added on to the next review period on our 5-year adjustable rate mortgage.
- When the invoice arrives later this week from Portico for the benefits we pay for Pastor Ward, Harriett, and Sharon, we will be negotiating with them for a payment plan.
- Payment of previously-incurred invoices are being held for a longer period of time before they are paid.
Of utmost concern to all of us is how we can continue to pay our employees regular salaries and keep benefits going. So far we have not made any reductions to the church employees as they are working even longer hours trying to keep up with online services, Sunday School, website enhancements, etc.
The PreSchool has not had any sessions since March 13. So far, the APS board has been able to cover 2/3 of the salaries of the teachers out of their $18,000 carryover fund they have from prior years. That money, however, will run out very soon. Sadly, church employees are not normally eligible for unemployment insurance. The CARES package approved by Congress permits unemployment to cover church employees; however, each state must vote to accept this and they can deny it if they wish. North Carolina has the one of the lowest percentage of people accepted for unemployment benefits and pays the lowest amount for the shortest period of time. Pathetically, the NC legislators don't even come back to Raleigh to discuss this until the end of April. Considering the previous history of the legislators to refuse federal monies for Medicaid, I don't hold much hope they will accept this.
In order to provide monies to keep all our staff (the church and APS) paid during the next 8 weeks, we have been preparing to apply for the Payroll Protection Program which was the allocation of $349B out of the federal CARES act that would assist small businesses including non-profits. The purpose of this PPP (as it is called) is to keep employees fully covered during this difficult time and ensure they have jobs to which to return.
We have all our paperwork ready to apply but have run into roadblocks. First, is that you have to apply for this through your lender and ours is Wells Fargo. Second, it turns out Wells Fargo was limited to only $10B of this $349B because they were under mandate from the government to not increase their asset base beyond 2017 levels as punishment for their writing illegal loans. Thankfully the federal government quickly lifted the $10B cap just for this program but as of this writing, we have still not been able to apply. The window of opportunity was opened some time on the afternoon of April 3 and as soon as I saw the window was open (within hours of the opening), I responded (as they indicated) by filling out the interest form as requested. One would think we would have quickly been able to apply given the quickness we supplied our interest form but that didn't happen. I am continuing to receive emails, however, saying we are still in the queue but I'm not receiving a request to apply. Unfortunately, all this is being handled online. There is no phone number and no email to send inquiries to and the branch managers don't know anything. I am cautiously still holding out hope for this but as the days go by, our chances are growing slimmer.. Latest predictions are that the entire $349B will be allocated by the end of this week. Also unfortunate is that banks will not even allow you to apply if you are not a customer of that bank so other places to apply just don't exist. Please pray for us!
If accepted, we have the opportunity to receive a grant/loan of $92K. This money would be used for salaries for the church and for the pre-school teachers, will pay health and pension benefits and 25% can be used for utilities and interest on mortgages. If 75% is used for payroll and benefits and the remaining 25% is used as stipulated, the grant/loan will be completely forgiven. There is a possibility we could be left with a small balance if for some reason we could not meet those 2 requirements fully; however, the interest rate is 1%, no payments until 1-1-2021 (although interest accrues after July 1), and term length of 2 years. On April 3, your Advent Council held an emergency meeting and unanimously approved the following motion pertaining to this PPP:
Council recommends applying for the Payroll Protection Program (part of a list of suggestions from NC Synod) to cover payroll for ALC and APS over an 8-week period as well as utilities, health and pension benefits, and interest on the mortgage. Because 100% of the approved amount can be forgiven if funds are used as outlined by the government, we are viewing this as a grant. There could, however, be some residual balance that is due and payable at 1% interest over a 2-year term. No payments would be due until after 1/1/2021 but interest would accrue during the grace period.
If we are able to participate in this program, the salaries and benefits will be paid for church employees as well as the APS teachers at full coverage. If, however, in the end we are not able to participate in the PPP and if offerings do not come in to permit us to meet our operational costs of about $9K a month plus the $18,123 for payroll and benefits for church employees, we will have to officially reduce hours and our contribution to pension for employees.
For APS, they will have to seek alternative sources of money perhaps through Wubben or they will just have to furlough their teachers.
Remember, too, that while APS does have carryover funds remaining from previous years, the church itself has none as they were used last fiscal year to cover our deficit for the year and even leaving us $9100 in the red. As indicated earlier, please add to your daily prayers that God will make a way for us to participate in this program or provide some other way for us to care for our employees.
This brings you up to date on what we have done. Now I'd like to address what you can do to help.
First, I want to issue a huge THANK YOU for the offerings that have continued to come to the church via mail or on-line giving! Your support and generosity are so very much appreciated and it is a huge blessing.
I also want to make it clear that we fully understand there may be families within our congregation that are being severely impacted financially by this sudden halt to the economy. Please know that if you are one of those families, our hearts are with you. We fully understand and support you not being able to continue making your offerings so please please do not feel we are pressuring you to give.
If, however, you are not being impacted financially, we ask that you continue making your offerings and even increase your support if you can. I am going to go out on a limb and offer this bit of personal information about me and make a challenge to you based on my situation..... I am ok. As long as my Social Security and my IBM pension continue to come in, I can cover my expenses. Now there is that $1200 check that will soon arrive in my bank account. Sure I could find a number of things to use that money for but I'm planning to donate my $1200 to the church. This is over and beyond what my normal tithe is. I challenge those of you who may be similarly blessed to do the same thing. It will make so much of a difference to Advent Lutheran Church .... our church .... yours and mine!
Offerings may be made to Advent by mailing your checks or by using online giving (OLG). I'm copying below the information previously communicated on how to give.
- You may mail a check to the church at 8840 University City Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28213. All offerings will go to the General Fund unless you designate otherwise on the memo line of the check or attach a note indicating where you want it to go.
- You may drop a check by the church. You will need a fob to get in. Your envelope can be left on the counter near Pastor Ward's office. Again, see the note above about designating where you want your offering to go.
- You may use bill pay through your personal bank or credit union.
- You may use Online Giving. See the info below for details on using this tool.
Using Online Giving:
- You may make a one-time gift through Online Giving or you may set up recurring donations which you can modify or cancel at any time.
- This tool allows you to use a credit card, debit card, or bank checking or savings account payment.
- The church does pay a small fee for payments made through cards and American Express is not permitted because their fee is too costly. The tool asks if you'd like to add a small amount to offset our cost.
- You can also designate where you want your gift to go.... General Fund for operating expenses or other special fund. A number of special funds are built into the tool already but if your choice is not listed, you can choose OTHER and type the name of the fund you want to get credit. You can do multiple donations in one entry.
- To use this tool you can go to the Advent website (adventlu.org) and click on GIVE in the upper right-hand corner of the main screen.
I didn't intend this update to be so long but I had a lot to tell you so you are fully aware. If you've read all the way here to the end, please know that your care and concern for Advent are so very much appreciated. Once again, our deep and abiding gratefulness for your help in keeping us afloat during this crisis. If you are struggling in any way, please reach out to the church through Pastor Ward or Sharon Thrower to let us help you in whatever way we can.
Many blessings to each of you!