Reversing course, FEMA allows religious groups to receive disaster aid

Catholic News Agency | 1/3/2018 | Staff
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Washington D.C., Jan 3, 2018 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Tuesday that houses of worship will now be eligible to receive federal disaster relief funds, after outcry from religious leaders in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Previously, these FEMA funds were limited to private nonprofits that were not affiliated with a religion, such as museums, libraries, community centers, and homeless shelters.

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“Effective for any major disaster declared on or after August 23, 2017, private nonprofit organizations operating a house of worship are now eligible under the FEMA Public Assistance Program,” the agency's administrator wrote to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Jan. 2.

Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Wednesday that FEMA had granted their request to permit houses of worship to gain access to these disaster relief funds.

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Abbott and Paxton had sent President Donald Trump a letter in September arguing that houses of worship were no different than other nonprofits, and had even assisted FEMA with their recovery efforts. Yet due to past FEMA policy, these organizations were barred from funds.

Three Texas churches that were damaged during Hurricane Harvey had filed suit saying that they were being discriminated against for their religious beliefs as their requests for aid had been denied by FEMA.

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Now, FEMA will permit houses of worship damaged during the hurricane to retroactively apply for aid, and any other church damaged in a storm in the future will also be eligible for these funds.

(Excerpt) Read more at: Catholic News Agency
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