The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – applauded the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s unanimous passage Thursday of the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (H.R. 4460).
The new Act includes a provision that requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stop discriminating against synagogues, churches, mosques and other houses of worship in need of disaster relief. The act will now go to the full House for a vote.
The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center spearheaded the provision that modifies FEMA policy so that houses of worship are eligible for disaster relief. It was 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.). The new policy places houses of worship on an even playing field for FEMA assistance just like other nonprofits such as museums, community centers and libraries damaged in hurricanes and other natural disasters.
OU Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament, who submitted a letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee earlier this week in support of the provision, stated in the letter that continuing to exclude houses of worship from FEMA disaster relief amounts to “improper anti-religious discrimination.”
Following the committee vote, he stated, “We have been fighting since Superstorm Sandy to make this critical change so that houses of worship damaged in natural disasters receive fair treatment by FEMA. We are pleased that our legislators recognized the need to make this change and are grateful to the members of the committee and to Representatives Lou Barletta, Chris Smith, Peter King, Grace Meng and Trent Franks for bringing this issue forward as part of the disaster reform package. We look forward to its passage by the full House.”
OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane added, “We welcome this policy change, which will end FEMA’s discriminatory treatment of synagogues, churches, mosques and other houses of worship damaged in natural disasters. This has been a long time in coming, and we appreciate the support from our legislators as well as the Trump Administration.”