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OU Welcomes Senate Introduction of FEMA Relief Bill to Aid Disaster-Damaged Synagogues, Other Houses of Worship

Posted on September 19, 2017 In Press Releases

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization welcomes the introduction of  the “Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act” (S. 1823) by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). The bill will end the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) unfair treatment of synagogues, churches and other houses of worship damaged in natural disasters.

The legislation, spearheaded by the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, will provide relief to houses of worship damaged in Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and ensure that aid is made available in the event of future natural disasters. Any funds granted to houses of worship would be allocated in accordance with FEMA’s standard policies and procedures for other nonprofits.

The Senate bill parallels similar bipartisan legislation (H.R. 2405) introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Peter King (R-N.Y.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).

The damage inflicted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have again highlighted FEMA’s discriminatory policy under which houses of worship are not eligible for the same assistance as disaster-damaged libraries, zoos, museums and community centers. Earlier this month, the effort received a boost from President Trump, who tweeted: “Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others).”

OU Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament stated:
“This legislation will ensure fair treatment for synagogues, churches, mosques and other houses of worship that suffer damage in natural disasters. This policy change is long overdue.”

OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane stated:
“The Orthodox Union is very grateful to Senators Blunt, Lankford, Cruz and Cornyn for their leadership on this issue. It is time to end FEMA’s discriminatory practices toward houses of worship damaged in natural disasters.”