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Sens. Cruz, Blunt, Cornyn, Lankford Introduce Bill to Allow Houses of Worship to Receive Federal Disaster Assistance

September 19, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) yesterday introduced the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act, which would make houses of worship eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance program grants.   

“I am proud to join Senator Blunt in introducing the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act,” said Sen. Cruz. “Religious non-profit organizations, including churches, synagogues, other houses of worship, and community centers should not be excluded from federal disaster assistance just because they are faith-based. This policy is discriminatory and wrong. We must ensure that religious organizations are eligible for federal assistance on the same terms as other non-profits after being damaged or destroyed during natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. These religious institutions are central to our communities, provide vital services for our friends and neighbors, and are often the first to open their doors during a devastating crisis offering aid to those in need. I encourage my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important legislation so that we can swiftly enact this bill into law.”  

“Houses of worship provide vital support services during natural disasters, including food, comfort, shelter and much more,” said Sen. Blunt. “It is imperative that they have the resources they need to recover and rebuild. I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and help ensure houses of worship are able to continue serving local communities when they need it most.” 

“Nonprofits often play a critical role in filling the gaps in assistance, and houses of worship are no different," said Sen. Cornyn. "Equal treatment in FEMA grant programs for all nonprofits, including religious institutions, must be reached so these groups can continue to help communities in Texas and elsewhere recover."   

“In June, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Trinity Lutheran that ‘the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand…’ Likewise, houses of worship that serve our communities and are impacted by natural disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, should not be disqualified from disaster assistance simply because they are religious in nature,” said Sen. Lankford. “They should be able to apply for these grants just like other entities.” 

Under the Stafford Act, houses of worship are ineligible for FEMA Public Assistance program grants, which provide funding for the repair, reconstruction, or replacement of private nonprofit facilities. This legislation would put houses of worship on an even playing field with other non-profit organizations by allowing them to apply for disaster assistance on the exact same terms as other non-profit facilities.

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