Red Cross cots. Photo by Bill Benson

WASHINGTON, District of Columbia- U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) today announced that his Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act has been included in the Bipartisan Budget Act. Blunt’s bill would make houses of worship permanently eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance program grants.

“Recent natural disasters have shown how critical houses of worship are in providing essential, and at times life-saving, services when communities need them the most,” said Blunt. “Putting houses of worship on an equal footing with other non-profits will help ensure they have the resources they need to rebuild after a disaster and continue serving their communities. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation.”

Blunt’s bill would make permanent FEMA’s recent decision that allowed houses of worship to receive federal disaster aid. Houses of worship were previously ineligible for FEMA Public Assistance program grants, which provide funding for the repair, reconstruction, or replacement of private non-profit facilities.

According to FEMA officials, the change in policy was prompted by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer which found that a religious non-profit organization could not be excluded from a state program simply because it was religious. Prior to the decision, Blunt led members of Congress in filing an amicus brief in support of Trinity Lutheran.