1AP’s 3 Things to Know—FEMA’s Houses of Worship Rule
- FEMA unfairly denies aid to houses of worship. After natural disasters, FEMA helps fund rebuilding efforts for homes, businesses, and organizations. However, FEMA has a policy that denies this funding for houses of worship except in proportion to the “critical services” they provide (e.g., a church with a day care program that comprised 10% of its budget would be eligible for a grant only 10% of the size of an identically sized non-profit across the street).
- Churches are fundamental to rebuilding after natural disasters. In addition to being just plain unfair, denying FEMA aid to local churches makes it much harder for them to help others. Around 80% of recovery aid comes from nonprofits, many of which are faith-based. This includes large international organizations like the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse as well as smaller local community centers and churches. Houses of worship support their communities by providing shelter, necessities, and emotional care.
- This unfair police can be changed. Great news! President Trump and Congress can change this policy and permit equal funding for houses of worship. In 2014, a coalition of faith leaders pushed to change the policy, even passing the House before stalling in the Senate. In light of the Trinity Lutheran v. Comer decision this summer, new efforts have begun to ensure that faith-based aid gets equal treatment under FEMA policy. Becket Law has filed a lawsuit challenging the policy, which may encourage FEMA and Congress to act quicker.
In times of disaster, houses of worship should be able to focus completely on their mission–caring for their neighbors and communities. Changing FEMA’s policy to give churches equal access to recovery funds would allow them to do just that.
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