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Congress Bill Offers Disaster Relief to Houses of Worship

A bipartisan trio of northeastern members of the U.S. House of Representatives reintroduced legislation that would provide direct relief to synagogues and churches damaged by natural disaster.

Reps. Chris Smith, (R-N.J.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.), this week introduced the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act, which would override existing Federal Emergency Management Agency rules that exclude houses of worship from recovery funds.

Read: Hit by Sandy, Synagogue Finds Faith Renewed

A similar bill introduced by Meng and Smith in the last Congress, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, passed overwhelmingly in February 2013, but never made it through the Senate.

The Orthodox Union, which lobbied for the bill, praised the lawmakers.

““The recent flooding in Houston reminds us that houses of worship are equally affected by severe flooding and natural disasters,” Nathan Diament, the O.U.’s Washington director, said in a statement Thursday. “When a natural disaster occurs, most often it is the churches and synagogues that offer comfort and a place to gather for members of the community.”

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