01/03/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/03/2018 19:29
HARRISONVILLE, MO - Today Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) praised the announcement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that it would no longer exclude houses of worship from receiving federal disaster aid.
'This action corrects an egregious injustice inflicted by the Obama Administration,' Hartzler said. 'It's unthinkable that FEMA used churches for staging areas and then denied the very same institution aid for its buildings. Discrimination for any reason is wrong-including religious discrimination. Churches are a central part of our communities, and I am pleased that they will now have equal access to the funding that other private foundations do in the wake of natural disasters. I look forward to working on a permanent legislative fix for this issue in the near future.'
Background: FEMA's previous policy prevented houses of worship from receiving disaster aid, although it allowed similar private nonprofits to receive such help. In October, Congresswoman Hartzler joined her colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump asking him to change this policy, stating that it was discriminatory and violated the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. Rep. Hartzler also co-sponsored H.R. 2405, the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017, which would amend current law to include tax-exempt houses of worship as 'private nonprofit facilities' for purposes of disaster relief and emergency assistance eligibility. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, three Texas churches damaged by the storm also sued FEMA over its policy, stating that it was discriminatory.
On Tuesday, January 2, 2018 FEMA announced that it would allow churches to apply for hurricane disaster aid. The change applies to private nonprofit organizations that were damaged on or after August 23 or that had applications pending before FEMA as of that date.
Interested members of the media may contact Anna Swick at [email protected]