Trump: Texas churches should get FEMA funding for hurricane relief

Trump: Texas churches should get FEMA funding for hurricane relief

President Trump on Friday evening voiced his support for Texas churches receiving disaster relief money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following Hurricane Harvey.

"Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others)," Trump wrote on Twitter. 

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Three churches damaged as Hurricane Harvey made landfall filed a lawsuit in federal court early this week seeking the FEMA relief funds.

Harvest Family Church, the Hi-Way Tabernacle and the Rockport First Assembly of God all suffered damages from Harvey, with two flooded and another losing its steeple and roof.

The Hi-Way Tabernacle became a FEMA staging center and sheltered 70 people and sent out over 8,000 emergency meals, according to The Washington Post.

The lawsuit claims FEMA “categorically excludes houses of worship from equal access to disaster relief grants because of their religious status," saying the churches should receive "a fair shake."

Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseBill Maher takes a knee for the NFL GOP senator unleashes tweet storm against prominent white nationalist Republican says GOP messaging on health care has been poor MORE (R-Neb.) sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long on Friday, arguing that FEMA is discriminating against people of faith by not providing the reimbursements.

"It sends the message that communities of worship aren’t welcome to participate fully in public life ... It reduces the facilities and volunteer time, talent, and effort available to support the broader community," Sasse wrote.

The Post noted that FEMA reimbursed churches and other religious organizations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

FEMA said in a statement to The Hill that the agency would reimburse applicants who were eligible for sheltering costs. 
 
"Any private non-profit (PNP) organization, including a religious organization that provides eligible services may be eligible for federal assistance under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program (PA) to help restore its facilities and equipment," the agency said. 
 
"To be eligible, an entity must meet the regulatory definition of a PNP and must either primarily provide an eligible critical service (education, medical, utility, or emergency services), or provide an eligible governmental type service and be open to the general public (with the exception of custodial care), as listed in section 102(11) of the Stafford Act." 

Updated: 4:35 p.m.