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Fact Sheet: Tornado-Damaged Houses of Worship May be Eligible for Federal Assistance

Release date: 
May 20, 2020
Release Number: 
DR-4536-MS FS-002

Houses of Worship -- whether church, synagogue, mosque, chapel, meetinghouse or temple -- that sustained damage in the tornadoes and storms that hit Mississippi on April 12, 2020, and which are located in Covington, Jefferson Davis or Jones County, may be eligible for a FEMA Public Assistance (PA) grant to help pay for repairs.

PA is FEMA’s largest grant program, providing assistance to state and local governments and certain types of private nonprofit (PNP) organizations (including PNP-owned houses of worship) so that communities can respond to and recover from presidentially declared disasters.

The program is funded by FEMA on a cost-share basis: 75 percent reimbursement of eligible costs for repair, replacement or restoration of disaster-damaged publicly owned facilities and the facilities of certain PNPs. 

FEMA does not provide PA funding to PNPs for the costs associated with emergency services such as sheltering and feeding survivors and other governmental services; unless those services were at the request of and certified by, a legally responsible government entity.

Operating costs are generally not eligible even if the services are emergency services; unless the house of worship performs an emergency service at the request of, and is certified by, the legally responsible government entity.

To be eligible for a PA grant, a house of worship must:

  • Be owned or operated by a private non-profit organization.
  • Have damage caused by the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds, and flooding that occurred April 12, 2020.
  • Provide a non-critical, but essential, service open to the general public without regard to their religious or secular nature.
  • Provide a current IRS ruling letter granting tax exemption status under Section 501 (c) (d) or (e).
  • Provide documentation from the State of Mississippi substantiating it is a non-revenue producing, nonprofit organization organized or doing business under state law.

SBA low-interest disaster loans are a critical part of the application process for Houses of Worship and PNPs.

  • FEMA may provide PA eligible costs only if a disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) does not cover these costs.
  • FEMA will provide financial assistance only if the applicant is denied an SBA loan – or if the loan funds are insufficient to cover repair costs.
  • To apply for a SBA loan, apply online at disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ and apply under SBA declaration # 16423, not for the Covid-19 incident. For further assistance call the SBA Disaster Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955.
  • For more information, visit www.fema.gov/disaster/4536

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Last Updated: 
May 20, 2020 - 16:36