Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Agudath Israel Applaud$ House Vote on Disaster Funding for Religiou$ Institution$

Agudath Israel of America, a national Orthodox Jewish organization, hails today’s bipartisan passage in the House of Representatives of the “Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofits Fairness Act of 2013″ (H.R. 592). The bill, introduced by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Grace Meng (D-NY), makes clear that houses of worship and other religious institutions are eligible to receive FEMA disaster relief funds on an equal footing with other eligible nonprofits. The bill, which was passed in the House by a vote of 354-72, now moves to the Senate.

Over the years, Agudath Israel has worked to ensure that religious institutions obtain a full measure of FEMA disaster relief funds. This has been an ongoing challenge, due to several limitations on how and when disaster assistance may be provided to religious entities. Synagogues and Jewish religious schools affected by natural disasters have not always been able to receive the federal aid they need for repair and restoration.

In recent months, after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, a coalition of religious groups pursued with the Obama Administration and on Capitol Hill several avenues to address this issue. Proponents have pointed to, among other things, Supreme Court decisions and executive action in recent years that have allowed federal aid to go to religious institutions when — like the FEMA program — the assistance is distributed on a religion-neutral basis and made broadly available. The bill passed today makes it clear that FEMA cannot deny aid to religious institutions because of the “religious character” or “primary religious use” of damaged facilities.

No comments: