26 local Boy Scout councils, each facing child sex abuse lawsuits, received loans from a coronavirus relief fund, a fund supported by taxpayer dollars. Currently the Boy Scouts of America faces thousands of claims from across the U.S., each alleging the youth organization failed to protect children from sexual predators in the Scouts.
Vice News states these councils received between $8.2 and $20.9 million through the program supported by the Trump administration. This $660 billion federal initiative was created to help small businesses survive the devastating economic blow of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Washington Post, over 100,000 small businesses permanently shut down since the pandemic erupted.
101 Boy Scout councils received loans through the Trump Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Over a quarter of the councils that received aid have been called out in lawsuits for hiding the actions of pedophiles in Scouting programs.
The Boy Scout councils that received loans from the federal relief program face allegations of abuse that span across decades. Some of the crimes happened as recently as 2018 with children as young as five years old. These lawsuits bring up similar claims that Scoutmaster and Scouting leaders sexually abused the children under their protection. Both boys and girls within Scouting programs faced horrific forms of abuse including molestation, fondling, rape, and sodomy.
One local council that received federal aid, the Greater St. Louis Council, currently faces a lawsuit from a former Scout claiming he was sexually abused three times by a Scouting volunteer during the summer of 2018. The Greater St. Louis Council received between $1 and $2 million from the Paycheck Protection Program.
Local Boy Scout Councils and BSA Bankruptcy
Each of the local Boy Scout councils is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This means they are independent from the national Boy Scouts of America group. In February 2020, the national BSA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to handle the massive numbers of sexual abuse lawsuits pending against them.
However, VICE News indicates that the 261 local councils may not face any of the legal proceedings the national branch will face because of their separation from the larger organization. This legal separation actually helped the local councils apply for the coronavirus federal relief fund. In total, the 261 local councils’ assets total to around $3.3 billion.
In actuality, the number of local Boy Scout councils that received money through the Paycheck Protection Program could be more. The Small Business Administration, which runs the relief program, does not release the names of businesses that received loans less than $150,000. This could mean other councils facing sexual abuse lawsuits received federal aid, as well.
“Here they are skirting their responsibility to the harm they caused children while getting a handout from the federal government to sustain their entire business model,” said Andrew Van Arsdale, a lead attorney with the legal movement Abused in Scouting, which represents over 5,500 men claiming they were sexually abused in Scouting programs. “It’s horrifying. When you look at the number of children that were abused in their care — I mean, really, they should be wrapped up and shut down, not given a lifeline to continue to sustain themselves.”