Religious leaders in Panhandle learn about FEMA rule changes

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WDHN) — In a new press release, FEMA reminded residents that houses of worship are now available for public assistance.

This comes after two recent summits in both Panama City and Marianna with more than 100 religious leaders in total attending them. The leaders traveled through the hurricane-stricken Panhandle to learn about how they can get assistance.

Back in January, the federal budget made houses of worship owned or run by nonprofit organizations (secular or religious) eligible for FEMA’s Public Assistance program.

Kevin Smith, director of the Faith and Opportunity Initiatives for the Department of Homeland Security, asked leaders to make their applications before the deadline on Dec. 14. He also praised religious organizations for their commitment to helping others rebuild in disaster situations.

“I am your biggest fan because, around the world, I have seen what faith-based communities can do,” Smith said.

For a place of worship to receive help, they must first submit a public assistance request through the state, which can be done through this link. Any questions on the process can be answered by emailing

FEMA will help pay for costs that aren’t covered by insurance or the Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. If you’re denied the loan or the loan isn’t enough to cover the costs, FEMA may also pay for that as well through the Public Assistance program.

The press release also explained the obligations of the places of worship on their part.

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.

For information on post-hurricane recovery, click here. As for Floridians and their businesses, a list of resources that can help can be found here.

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