TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) – Religious leaders whose houses of worship were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Michael can now apply for FEMA’s Public Assistance program.
The deadline for applying for the aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is December 14.
Federal rules changed in January 2018 allow houses of worship to be eligible for federal public assistance without regard to their secular or religious nature.
More than 100 leaders traveled through devastated communities in mid-November to attend summits that explained the rule changes.
“I am praying like all the rest of you that this will help us,” said Dr. Michael Claunch, senior pastor of St. Andrews Baptist Church.
The church was host to the first summit in Panama City, titled "the critical role of faith-based organizations in community response and recovery after disasters, which was attended by about 60 leaders.
A second summit Friday at Riverwood Community Church in Marianna drew about 50 people.
“I am your biggest fan because, around the world, I have seen what faith-based communities can do,” said Kevin Smith, who conducted the two summits engaging the religious leaders with disaster specialists from the State of Florida and FEMA.
Smith is the director of the Faith and Opportunity Initiatives for the Department of Homeland Security.
Houses of worship interested in receiving reimbursement for repair costs must first submit a Request for Public Assistance through the State of Florida at https://floridapa.org.
Houses of worship who have questions about the Public Assistance request process can also email email@example.com.
FEMA will provide financial assistance for repair costs not covered by insurance or the SBA loan.
FEMA may still provide PA funding if the house of worship is denied a loan or if the loan is insufficient to cover repair costs.
Houses of worship deemed eligible for Public Assistance are still subject to the 25 percent non-federal cost share and must apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan as do other private nonprofits.
“Submitting a Request for Public Assistance will get the Public Assistance process started,” Smith told the leaders