The OU expressed its appreciation to U.S. Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Grace Meng (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) for reintroducing the bipartisan Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act (H.R. 3066) that would ensure that houses of worship devastated by recent and future disasters are eligible for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Under federal law and current FEMA regulations, various types of “private nonprofit facilities” are eligible for federal aid to repair their disaster-damaged facilities. Eligible facilities include museums, libraries, community centers, performing arts facilities, homeless shelters and senior centers, among others. While federal law does not explicitly exclude or include houses of worship, FEMA’s regulations do exclude houses of worship from full and equal eligibility to similarly situated nonprofit organizations.
“The recent flooding in Houston reminds us that houses of worship are equally affected by severe flooding and natural disasters. When a natural disaster occurs, most often it is the churches and synagogues that offer comfort and a place to gather for members of the community. It is ironic that these institutions that serve others in times of need are the ones refused aid by FEMA,” said Nathan Diament, OU Executive Director for Public Policy.
The Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act was passed by an overwhelming vote in the U.S. House of Representatives following Hurricane Sandy in 2013, however, the bill did not move forward in the Senate.
“We are very grateful to Representatives Smith, Meng and King for reintroducing the FEMA fairness legislation. We commend them for their commitment to serving those impacted by natural disasters and joining us in the fight to ensure that the churches and synagogues are not left behind,” added Diament.