House passes disaster relief for houses of worship
Thanks to the leadership of our own, Rep. Grace Meng, and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the House passed the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013 with an overwhelming, bipartisan vote (354 – 72). We are grateful for their support that of the co-sponsors: Rep. Eliot L.Engel, Rep. Trent Franks, Rep. Michael Grimm, Michael G., Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, Rep. Peter King, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., and to all in our delegation who voted for the measure.
The legislation clarifies the Stafford Act to allow FEMA to reimburse houses of worship for uninsured, disaster-related damages at the same rate as other non-critical nonprofits, “without regard to the religious character of the facility or the primary religious use of the facility”.
As Avi Schick pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal Op-ed: “Nobody suggests that government should entirely rebuild sanctuaries or pay for the printing of prayer books. But if roofs are being repaired and other structural damage is being remediated, the religious nature of what might occur below shouldn’t matter.”
As of February 1, 2013, 86 churches and synagogues had individually registered with FEMA and requested Public Assistance. In addition, 125 damaged Catholic churches are included in two applications. Daily, we hear about churches, mosques and synagogues that have not even applied, under the impression that they are not eligible.
The application deadline is February 27th in the New York area. Applicants can download the forms below: