The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it is changing policy language that frequently disallowed religious groups from getting aid that other nonprofits can access.
"Private nonprofit houses of worship will not be singled out for disfavored treatment within the community centers subcategory of (Public Assistance) nonprofit applicants," FEMA Recovery Directorate assistant administrator Alex Amparo wrote in a FEMA manual released Tuesday.
The agency said that religious groups could now qualify for aid as "community centers" to receive disaster relief grants. However, facilities used mainly for "political, athletic . . . recreational, vocational, or academic training" would still not be allowed support.
In September, during Hurricane Harvey's relief efforts, President Donald Trump tweeted that churches should be allowed to receive disaster relief funds. The new policy will allow retroactive coverage back to Aug. 23, 2017, which will help houses of worship damaged during Harvey, Politico reported.
Amparo changed the policy because of a June Supreme Court decision that found the State of Missouri violated the Constitution for disallowing a church from receiving state funds to resurface a playground, the website reported.
Daniel Blomberg, an attorney for the churches and synagogues who were suing over the policy, praised the change.
"Better late than never. By finally following the Constitution, FEMA is getting rid of second-class status for churches," Blomberg told Politico.
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