Would Allow Houses of Worship Same Status as Other Non-Profits in Seeking Federal Disaster Assistance
The House of Representatives voted today to put houses of worship—many of which were severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy but nonetheless continued to serve ravaged coastal communities—on an even playing field with other non-profit organizations seeking disaster assistance.
H.R. 592, the “Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013,” is co-authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY-06), and co-sponsored by Peter King (R-NY-02), Eliot Engel (D-NY-16), Trent Franks (R-AZ-08), Michael Grimm (R-NY-11), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-02), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY-04) and Bill Pascrell Jr.(D-NJ-09).
The legislation stipulates that the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) disaster relief program, is a general government program under which federal assistance following a natural disaster can be rendered using criteria that are neutral with regard to religion. Congress has previously enacted laws providing financial assistance to religious nonprofit institutions, including houses of worship, on terms equal to other eligible nonprofit organizations. The bill now moves to the Senate.
The bill had 10-2 support in the New Jersey delegation. Congressmen Rob Andrews and Rush Holt voted NO.
If passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, the following Monmouth County churches that sustained over $100,000 each from Superstorm Sandy stand to received FEMA funds for rebuilding:
|Christ the King (Our Lady of Mt Carmel), Long Branch|
|Christ the King (Holy Trinity Church, Long Branch)|
|St. James, Red Bank|
|St. Ann, Keansburg|
|St. Denis, Manasquan|
|Church of the Precious Blood, Monmouth Beach|
This bill applies to “houses of worship” only and will not impact FEMA’s decision to deny funding to the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for the rebuilding of the Ocean Grove boardwalk, according to Smith’s office.