Orthodox Union Welcomes House Committee’s Mark-Up of Bill Requiring FEMA Fairness for Houses of Worship and Urges Its Passage

Posted on November 29, 2017 In Press Releases

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – welcomes tomorrow’s mark-up by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee of the “Disaster Recovery Reform Act” (H.R. 4460), which includes a provision that will require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to end its unfair treatment of synagogues, churches and other houses of worship in need of disaster relief.

The provision to include houses of worship was spearheaded by the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center and introduced as stand-alone legislation by Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Peter King (R-N.Y.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). It will provide relief to houses of worship damaged in Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and ensure that houses of worship are treated fairly in the event of future natural disasters. Under the new law, houses of worship will be treated the same as other nonprofits such as museums, community centers and libraries.

The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center on Tuesday submitted a letter to the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee supporting the Disaster Recovery Reform Act. It states:  “This legislation will ensure fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters…If houses of worship are excluded from this otherwise religion-neutral program, that unfair treatment would be improper anti-religious discrimination.”

OU Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament stated:
“This policy change is long overdue. We fought for the fair treatment by FEMA of houses of worship in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, but FEMA refused to rescind its discriminatory policy. The new legislation will ensure that synagogues, churches, mosques and other houses of worship that suffer damage in natural disasters are able to apply for FEMA disaster relief just as other nonprofits damaged in natural disasters.

OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane stated:
“The Orthodox Union is very grateful to Reps. Lou Barletta, Chris Smith, Peter King, Grace Meng and Trent Franks for their leadership in moving this provision as part of the disaster package. And we thank the Trump Administration for its support for Congress making this policy change. It is time for FEMA to end its discriminatory treatment of houses of worship damaged in natural disasters.”