A Houston federal judge has rejected an attempt bythree religious organizations to receive disaster funding from theFederal EmergencyManagement Agency (FEMA) to repair their churches that weredamaged by Hurricane Harvey.

The churches include Harvest Family Church, Hi-Way Tabernacle,and Rockport First Assembly of God, which all suffered damage totheir sanctuaries, a steeple and a fellowship hall during the Aug.27 storm, along with countless other buildings in the Houstonarea.

Private, nonprofit organizations

Government emergency relief is available under the Stafford Act, which allows for certain privatenonprofit organizations to receive disaster funds when a naturaldisaster exceeds a state or local government's ability torespond.

To receive disaster funds from FEMA under the act, the privatenonprofit must operate an eligible facility that providesnoncritical, but essential government service. However, the actexcludes some services, including facilities used for political,athletic or religious services. But when a private nonprofitfacility provides multiple services, it is allowed to receivefunding if FEMA determines that less that 50% of the facility'sphysical space is dedicated to ineligible services.

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John Council

Senior reporter John Council is a native Texan who covers litigation and appellate courts in his home state. Contact him at [email protected]. On Twitter: @john_council