Chiesa: Houses Of Worship Must Receive Fair Disaster Aid Treatment

U.S. Sen. Jeff Chiesa

U.S. Sen. Jeff Chiesa

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Jeff Chiesa today called for fair federal disaster aid treatment for houses of worship damaged during Superstorm Sandy, and in future disasters.

Joining a legislative effort by U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chiesa (R-NJ) added his support to the “Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013” to ensure houses of worship are eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) financial aid based on the same terms as other, similarly eligible nonprofit organizations. Similar legislation authored by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-04) passed the U.S. House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin earlier this year by a vote of 354 to 72.

“This is about the fair distribution of federal financial aid. Superstorm Sandy showed no discrimination in wreaking havoc on New Jersey’s communities, and neither should the manner in which aid is distributed,” said Chiesa. “I commend Senators Gillibrand and Blunt for introducing a fix to clarify which private nonprofit facilities shall be eligible for aid. I also applaud Congressman Smith’s leadership toward ending this unfair policy.”

According to the bill’s authors: Under the Stafford Act and current FEMA policy, various types of “private nonprofit facilities” are eligible for federal aid to repair their disaster-damaged facilities. Eligible facilities include: museums, libraries, community centers, performing arts facilities, homeless shelters, senior centers, and others. Currently, the Stafford Act does not explicitly exclude or include houses of worship, yet FEMA’s policy does exclude them from full and equal eligibility to similarly situated nonprofit organizations.

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