Houses of worship damaged by Sandy may be getting federal aid thanks to Congressmember Grace Meng and other lawmakers.
Meng and New Jersey Congressmember Chris Smith co-authored the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2013, a bill that would allow churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions excluded from FEMA aid to become eligible to receive a portion of the billions of dollars pouring into the tri-state area to rebuild. The Smith-Meng bill, put forth to the House on Wednesday, February 13, would leave houses of worship open for aid money under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, which funds FEMA reimbursements.
“The decision to hold a vote on this important legislation is great news for the many houses of worship that desperately need to repair or rebuild their facilities in the wake of Sandy,” Meng said in a statement. “Three-and-a-half months since the storm wreaked havoc on our region, houses of worship – and the millions of Americans who benefit from the social services these institutions provide – continue to be denied the same treatment that is afforded to other non-profit entities. This is unfair, wrong and must change. And it will change if this critical legislation becomes the law of the land. I urge all my colleagues in Congress to support it.”
Our Lady of Grace in Old Howard Beach was one of those churches affected by the storm and is still working its way back to normalcy. The church is currently ineligible for aid, nor is it particularly seeking it out, said Father Anthony M. Rucando.
In the meantime, Rucando said residents and parishioners are doing their part and helping the church they frequent.
“The people have stepped up because it’s the parish they love,” he said. “It’s an ongoing reality.”
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