U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced today that she will attempt to attach an amendment to the upcoming Hurricane Sandy relief bill that would allow houses of worship to receive disaster aid from FEMA.
In the aftermath of the Hurricane, many local churches, synagogues, mosques and temples that were destroyed or damaged sought grants from FEMA to rebuild their properties. But their applications were denied because the federal government does not include houses of worship on its list of private nonprofit organizations that qualify for disaster assistance. The list does include facilities such as zoos, museums, libraries, schools and performing arts centers.
"Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc upon our region and severely damaged many houses of worship that are now in desperate need of repair or are struggling to reopen," said Meng. "Not allowing them to collect FEMA aid in the wake of one of the nation's worst natural disasters -- but permitting other nonprofits to do so -- is unfair and wrong. Many of the affected churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are pillars of their communities that help people in need, and provide essential social services to the areas they serve. Some are major employers in their communities as well. Their failure to fully recover from the storm would have devastating effects on the many neighborhoods that depend on them for things such as child care, food pantries and other crucial programs. It is critical that houses of worship be provided with the same treatment that is afforded to other non-profits entities."
Under Meng's provision, houses of worship would be added to the federal government's list of private nonprofit organizations that are eligible for FEMA assistance. She intends to propose the amendment on Monday.
The $51 billion Hurricane Sandy relief package, of which Meng is also a cosponsor, is scheduled to be voted on by the House of Representatives by January 15. Last week, the chamber approved an initial $9.7 billion. The Congresswoman was a cosponsor of that measure as well.