FEMA Declares Church Centers Now Eligible for US Disaster Aid

FEMA Declares Church Centers Now Eligible for US Disaster Aid

FEMA Declares Church Centers Now Eligible for US Disaster Aid

Specifically, "private nonprofit houses of worship will not be singled out for disfavored treatment within the community centers subcategory", Alex Amparo, FEMA's assistant administrator for recovery, wrote in the manual's foreword. "We need to get back on our feet, and we're unable to without FEMA's help".

The policy in dispute provided aid to storm-damaged "community centers" and other non-profits, but specifically excluded houses of worship like churches, synagogues and mosques used primarily for "religious activities, such as worship, proselytizing or religious instruction".

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday that churches may apply for aid relating to disasters declared after August 23, 2017, following pressure from President Donald Trump and a lawsuit by Texas churches.

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President Donald Trump earlier joined the move to include churches in funding for disaster relief.

FEMA's new guidelines still bar facilities from receiving funds for repairs if their primary use is for "political, athletic, recreational, vocational, or academic training".

Pastor Charles Stoker, who said his church was destroyed after Hurricane Harvey by almost 30 inches of rain, told ABC News the policy was "unfair". "And we look forward to continuing to help our neighbors as they recover from Harvey".

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After the Hurrican devastated areas of Houston, the Hi-Way Tabernacle became a FEMA staging center, sheltered 70 people and distributed over 8,000 emergency meals, but was denied federal reimbursement based on FEMA rules.

FEMA made a decision to reverse course based on the U.S. Supreme Court's Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer ruling last summer to stop similar government discrimination against a church. While the federal government is allowed to reimburse religious groups for the secular emergency services they provide, publicly funding the fix of church buildings is improper, they argued.

But groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Interfaith Alliance contend that providing such federal assistance to religious institutions would violate the separation of church and state.

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