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Second Appeal Analysis
PA ID# 095-UCMLT-00; Middleburgh Reformed Church
PW ID# N/A; Request for Public Assistance
In September 2011, the Middleburgh Reformed Church (Applicant) submitted a Request for Public Assistance (RPA) for damage to its church sanctuary and adjoining fellowship hall as a result of Hurricane Irene. On December 15, 2011, FEMA denied the Applicant’s RPA because the church does not meet FEMA’s definition of an eligible private nonprofit (PNP) facility.
The Applicant submitted a first appeal to the New York Office of Emergency Management (Grantee) on February 13, 2012, stating that it provides both critical and non-critical services for the community and that its fellowship hall “serves as a focal point for several critical government programs and nonprofit organizations that provide services” to the community.
The Acting Regional Administrator denied the first appeal on March 27, 2012, stating that the Applicant did not submit documentation that the fellowship hall was specifically established as a community center or provide a charter or by-laws that established the facility as a community center. The Applicant also did not substantiate its claim that separate staff was devoted to managing the fellowship hall as a community center or that the fellowship hall was used as a community center more than 50 percent of the time. Therefore, according to FEMA Disaster Assistance Policy DAP9521.1, Community Center Eligibility, the Applicant’s facility is not an eligible community center, and the Regional Administrator determined that the Applicant does not meet the qualifications of an eligible PNP organization according to the criteria set forth in Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations (44 CFR) §206.221.
The Applicant submitted its second appeal to the Grantee in July 2012, and the Grantee forwarded the appeal to FEMA on February 23, 2013. The Applicant reiterates its first appeal position that the community center is an eligible PNP facility. The Applicant maintains that the number of hours the community center is used for community-based programs is greater than the number of hours in which religious programs are offered. The Applicant states that it employs a part-time property caretaker “for the express purpose of supporting the building use for outside groups.” The Applicant provided a copy of a 2012 calendar of events for the months of September 2012 through December 2012, a copy of the church’s 2012 budget, and photographs of the church and fellowship hall in support of its appeal.
According to 44 CFR §206.222, Applicant eligibility, PNP organizations that own or operate an eligible PNP facility are eligible to apply for Public Assistance. In accordance with FEMA Disaster Assistance Policy DAP9521.1, Community Center Eligibility, facilities primarily used for political, athletic, religious, recreational, vocational or academic training, conferences, or similar activities are not eligible PNP community centers. For a facility to be an eligible community center, it must be “established and primarily used as a gathering place for a variety of social, educational enrichment, and community service activities.” The policy further states that “more than half (i.e., over 50%) of the total use should support those activities.” Primary use is established by approximating the space and time dedicated to community activities through the evaluation of materials including charters, board minutes, and activity logs which provide evidence of the facility’s use prior to the disaster.
The Grantee asserts that all community center space is used to support community programs, while the Applicant asserts that community use averages 20 hours per week as compared with 5 hours a week for religious program use. The Applicant provided activity/event calendars for four months of 2012, after the impact of Hurricane Irene. The calendars reflect the use of meeting space by community organizations, but do not show Applicant’s usage of the facility for religious programs in order to be able to determine if 50 percent of its use is for community center activities. The fellowship hall does occupy more than 50 percent of the square footage of the facility as a whole; however, the documentation submitted by the Applicant does not support that the space is used as a community center more than 50 percent of the time. Neither the Applicant nor the Grantee provided documentation to support their claims that the primary use of the facility prior to the event was that of a community center.
The Applicant’s damaged facility is a mixed-use facility comprised of a church and a fellowship hall. While the fellowship hall occupies more than 50 percent of the facility’s square footage, the Applicant has not demonstrated that it was used more than 50 percent of the time as an eligible community center. The Applicant does not own or operate an eligible PNP facility, and is, therefore, not eligible as an applicant for the Public Assistance program.