US/World News

Congress advances bill allowing disaster funds for houses of worship

(JTA) – A congressional committee has approved a bill that allows federal disaster relief funds to go to houses of worship.

Thursday’s unanimous vote in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sends the measure to the full U.S. House of Representatives for approval. Previously, relief funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, could not go to churches, synagogues and other houses of worship due to concerns about separation of church and state. Other institutions, like community centers or zoos, could receive the funds. The money reimburses the institutions for aid they provide to victims of natural disasters. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has long pushed for the change. In September, amid a string of hurricanes ravaging the Gulf Coast and Caribbean, President Donald Trump tweeted his support for churches receiving FEMA funds. “Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others),” Trump said on Twitter.

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