By Will Hall, Message Executive Editor
BALTIMORE, Md. (LBM) – While the crisis at the U.S. southern border and civil wars around the world have stretched thin governmental resources that provide shelter and other basics of humanitarian aid, faith groups, which are considered essential service providers both in this country and abroad, have seen their budgets boom with government grants and contracts.
The most extreme example of this growth industry is the Catholic Relief Services, the humanitarian arm of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 10 years the organization has grown from receiving $361,186 in government contracts and grants within revenues of $599,258 (which included $126,822 in noncash donations) to $516.7 million in government grants and contracts (or more than 68 percent) of cash revenues of $755.9 million (with another nearly $282 million in noncash contributions).
Sean Callahan, president of Catholic Relief Services, earned $497,416 in compensation for 2017- 2018, according to the group’s latest IRS Form 990, nearly as much as the entire budget from a decade earlier. The remaining 10 paid officers and executives for CRS received an average compensation of $209,288, while the other 6,895 employees averaged $38,292 in salaries, other compensation and benefits. The group reported 992 volunteers served without pay.
Meanwhile, BCFS Health and Human Services, which started as a children’s home in 1944 known as Baptist Child & Family Services in San, Antonio, Texas, more than doubled the nearly $136 million in government grants and contracts it received in 2015-2016, receiving $287.9 million in 2016-2017, or nearly 97 per-cent of its $297.6 million cash revenues (which were augmented with $1 million in noncash donations).
Kevin Dinnin, chairman of the BCFSHHS board of directors, was compensated a total of $502,614, and nine other directors and executives received an average of $218,165 for the same period. The 3,904 other employees averaged $42,621, and were assisted by 4,771 non-paid volunteers.
World Vision is another faith-based behemoth in humanitarian assistance. In 2006-2007, the international aid agency reported a cash budget of $548.1 million, with government funding making up $220.2 million of that amount.
However, in 2016-2017 the organization recorded cash revenues of $751.8 million, with government money composing $302.4 million, about 40 percent of cash contributions. Meanwhile, noncash gifts dropped from $400.5 mil-lion to $282 million.
World Vision President Richard Stearns earned $534,505, with his 19 fellow paid officers and executives earning, on average, $217,974. The remaining 1,113 World Vision employees were compensated $86,708 each. Worldwide, 56,035 volunteers contributed their time and effort for free.
Three other large faith-based aid groups include the Church World Service (which claims 20 member denominations), World Relief, which is an agency of the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Service. Each are heavily dependent on government grants and con-tracts in their respective budgets (2016-2017 data):
CWS: $91 million
WR: $72 million
LIRS: $49 million
Government Funds (percentage of cash revenues)
CWS: $68 million (75)
WR: $51 million (71)
LIRS: $45 million (92)
The Daily Caller, a conservative American news and opinion website based in Washington, D.C., reported that the BCFS has become the largest provider to the U.S. government for services to child immigrants who are part of the massive influx of mostly Central Americans crossing the U.S. southern border. Meanwhile, World Relief has reported the closing of at least six of its 20 resettlement offices in the United States — five (Baltimore, Md., Boise, Idaho, Columbus, Ohio, Miami, Fla., Nashville, Tenn.) in 2017 because of a cap on bringing in overseas refugees and the sixth (Jacksonville, Fla.) this year after learning the country was on pace to admit fewer than 30,000 overseas refugees.
During 2016-2017, World Relief had invested heavily in support to overseas refugees brought to the United States, raising and spending $38.5 million on resettlement efforts, including ESL training and immigration legal services as well as technical assistance for 52 church-based programs to qualify them with the U.S. government as direct providers of immigration legal services in their respective communities.