The Bipartisan Budget Agreement (full text) which will be voted on today by the Senate (CNN report) includes provisions assuring that houses of worship will be able to receive disaster assistance from FEMA. The Stafford Act, Sec. 42 USC Sec. 5172 allows federal assistance for repair or replacement of non-profit facilities damaged or destroyed by major disasters. However, until a recent policy change by FEMA, houses of worship were excluded. (See prior posting.) The bipartisan budget bill (Sec. 20604 at pg. 48) adds the following:SEC. 20604. (a) DEFINITION OF PRIVATE NON PROFIT FACILITY.—Section 102(11)(B) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5122(11)(B)) is amended to read as follows:‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—The term ‘private nonprofit facility’ means private nonprofit educational (without regard to the religious character of the facility), utility, irrigation, emergency, medical, rehabilitational, and temporary or permanent custodial care facilities (including those for the aged and disabled) and facilities on Indian reservations, as defined by the President.‘‘(B) ADDITIONAL FACILITIES.—In addition to the facilities described in subparagraph (A), the term ‘private nonprofit facility’ includes any private nonprofit facility that provides essential social services to the general public (including museums, zoos, performing arts facilities, community arts centers, community centers, libraries, homeless shelters, senior citizen centers, rehabilitation facilities, shelter workshops, broadcasting facilities, houses of worship, and facilities that provide health and safety services of a governmental nature), as defined by the President. No house of worship may be excluded from this definition because leadership or membership in the organization operating the house of worship is limited to persons who share a religious faith or practice.’’.(b) REPAIR, RESTORATION, AND REPLACEMENT OF DAMAGED FACILITIES.—Section 406(a)(3) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 5172(a)(3)) is amended by adding at the end the following:‘‘(C) RELIGIOUS FACILITIES.—A church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other house of worship, educational facility, or any other private nonprofit facility, shall be eligible for contributions under paragraph (1)(B), without regard to the religious character of the facility or the primary religious use of the facility. No house of worship, educational facility, or any other private nonprofit facility may be excluded from receiving contributions under paragraph (1)(B) because leadership or membership in the organization operating the house of worship is limited to persons who share a religious faith or practice.’’.