A picture of Representative Nick J. Rahall II
Nick R.
Former Democrat WV 3
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    Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013

    by Former Representative Nick J. Rahall II

    Posted on 2013-02-13

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    RAHALL. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    I rise in support of H.R. 592, the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013. This bill designates houses of worship as eligible private nonprofit organizations to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to repair or rebuild after a disaster strikes.

    When most people think of disaster damage, they think of the physical damage that is often shown on television, that is, of downed trees, flooded streets and homes, snow piled high, et cetera.

    But for disaster survivors, the impact is often also emotionally traumatic. In some cases, survivors have lost loved ones or all of their worldly possessions. In these trying times, survivors often look to houses of worship for spiritual instruction, guidance, and counseling. The services provided by houses of worship are critical to survivors' full healing and recovery after a disaster.

    During and after disasters, houses of worship are there at a time when the emotional toll inflicted by a disaster is at its worst. While some may have concerns about providing any type of Federal assistance to houses of worship, some types of Federal assistance should be, and are, provided on a neutral basis.

    Funding provided to a broad class of entities for secular purposes such as government-funded and -sponsored police and firefighting assistance and protection and recovery from terrorist activities are such examples.

    Likewise, disaster assistance has been provided to religious institutions in the past. In 1995, after the Oklahoma City bombing, Congress approved funds for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that specifically allowed for the repair and reconstruction of houses of worship damaged by the bombing.

    In addition, under FEMA's current policy, funds are provided to repair or rebuild religiously affiliated private nonprofit organizations such as schools, nursing homes, food shelters, and daycare centers.

    Assisting with recovery from a disaster does not promote or establish religion. There is no intrinsically religious purpose in providing disaster assistance. This provision simply recognizes that houses of worship are one aspect of community recovery.

    This bill helps ensure that our communities fully recover physically, emotionally, and mentally after a disaster. I urge my colleagues to join in supporting this bill.

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