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FEMA reaching out to churches

Ruston workshop scheduled to explain new rules
Nancy Bergeron
Sunday, August 18, 2019
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Update: link corrected, stock photo added — Aug. 19

For years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency prohibited churches from applying for government assistance if a disaster is declared in their area.

Now the rules have changed, and FEMA, in cooperation with the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, is holding a series of workshops across the state to explain the new eligibility requirements that also cover other private nonprofits.

The local Region 8 workshop will be held from 9-11:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Lincoln Parish Emergency Operations Center located at 161 Road Camp Road in Ruston.

The meeting is open to representatives of all houses of worship, as well as private nonprofit agencies. Though the workshop is free, preregistration is required.

That can be done online here.

“This is all new,” Kip Franklin, Lincoln Parish director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said. “In the past, churches, and houses of worship were not eligible for public assistance.”

Public assistance is the same level of aid for which cities and other governmental entities may apply following a disaster such as the April 25 tornado that hit Ruston.

FEMA expanded the public assistance eligibility to houses of worship in January 2018. They are eligible under the community center category, according to a FEMA press release.

The change was apparently brought about after three Texas churches that were severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 sued FEMA over its policy at the time of disallowing aid to churches because of their religious status.