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February 2013 Archive for Disaster relief

RSS By: Pastor Craig Miller

Disaster relief coordinator Pastor Craig Miller shares disaster relief information in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Hearings regarding FEMA aid to churches

Feb 07, 2013

On February 7, 2013 the Finance Committee held a hearing on a proposed resolution (Res. 1655-2013) asking the U.S. Congress to change the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act so that FEMA can provide assistance to houses of worship damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Representatives from churches and synagogues in Brooklyn and Queens attended the hearing and provided testimony on the importance of houses of worship in their communities.


Houses of worship provided aide to Sandy victims immediately after the storm. Even those houses of worship nearly destroyed by the storm surge found ways to help their neighbors. Some noted that FEMA and other agencies called on houses of worship to serve as headquarters and distribution centers in the storm-ravaged areas. "If we call on houses of worship in times of disaster, we should support them when they suffer disaster," was the sentiment expressed by many who testified.


It was noted during the hearing that 86 houses of worship in New York City had registered with FEMA as of February 1. One question of the hearing was, "Under FEMA, non-profits that provide critical care are eligible for aide, so why are they denied?"


baumtestifiesELCA Pastor William Baum (far right) of St. Barnabas Lutheran Church spoke of the extensive repairs needed to restore the areas of his church used by five Girl Scout troops and other community programs at no charge. He distinguished between the worship use of buildings, often only a few hours a week, and the community use that takes place in those buildings throughout the week. "The very people who would normally pull together to support a building restoration campaign by giving generously of their resources are unable to do so," he said, speaking of the Howard Beach families that make up the membership of St. Barnabas. "Their own resources have been seriously diminished by tens of thousands of dollars."


Dr. Paul de Vries, president of the New York Divinity School, said that current FEMA policy treats houses of worship as "outsiders" to the community. He said that the policy is "ignorant of the soul-care needed by victims."


"Our buildings are not houses of worship: We can worship anywhere," said one rabbi. "Our buildings are relief centers."


Councilman Domenic Recchia, chairman of the Finance Committee, concluded the hearing with a recommendation to all houses of worship that have suffered storm damage to register with FEMA. They should also submit application for Small Business Association loans when FEMA aid is denied. SBA loan application does not mean a congregation must accept a loan, but keeps open the possibility of FEMA assistance.

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