United Methodist Church Disaster Response
The United Methodist Church does a lot with disaster response and long term recovery operations. So much, you would wonder why we don’t know more about them.
On Monday night I had the pleasure of listening to Rev. Laraine Waughtal speak about the projects that the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church is doing following so many disasters. To be brief, the presentation was enlightening. I had the opportunity to get a better idea of what the United Methodist Church is doing in response to disasters.
Rev. Laraine Waughtal is the Coordinator of Disaster Response for the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Conference covers a vast area that generally stretches from
Waco, North to Fort Worth, West towards (but not including Abilene), East towards Corsicana, and South into Round Rock. To date, this is one of the more active conferences when it comes to disaster relief efforts (only rivaled by Oklahoma with its frequent tornados and Louisiana with the frequent flooding). The organization is funded by donations from members of and donors to the United Methodist Church. The CTCUMC’s Disaster Relief efforts are receive additional funding and support from the national level United Methodist Committee On Relief (“UMCOR”). Learn more about what UMCOR does on the national and international stage by clicking here.
What is important to note, is that all of the contributions to Disaster Relief efforts made to CTCUMC go directly to those causes. There is only one full-time staff member (Rev. Waughtal) and her salary is paid by the church. All others are volunteers. This means all the donations go straight into running disaster relief operations. This is very important because in many non-profit organizations, there is such an expensive administrative overhead cost that sometimes a good portion of the money ends up going to pay the salaries of the managers or full-time staff to keep the organization running. Sometimes, once an organization gets so large, it becomes a necessary evil. However, some organizations–which have made news headlines–almost spend too much money and time building the organization and lose sight of the mission that started them. Not with CTCUMC’s Disaster Relief mission.
Bringing it Back to the Law
So how does this relate to the law? Easy. Non-profits (including churches) have to deal with the legal aspects of training, liability, insurance coverage, and taxation (yes, they still have to file paperwork to maintain tax-free status). Now how does this apply to emergency management law? If the Church (besides the United Methodist Church) run a clinic, hospital, homeless shelter, food pantry, or other community based operation that is damaged during a disaster; they could be eligible for help from FEMA through the Public Assistance Programs. There are some very stringent qualifications for Public Assistance Projects; however despite these qualifications, having the ability to help get the community program back on track after a disaster can lend a sigh of relief to a non-profit’s leadership facing the prospect of closure.
One of the interesting things is that FEMA does help provide some case management services after a presidential disaster declaration (learn more about FEMA Case Management Grants and Programs here). However, if there is no presidential disaster declaration, it can be left up to the state to take care of the unmet needs of the disaster survivors. An interesting note–not really reported elsewhere–CTCUMC has managed over 600 long term recovery cases (i.e. connecting people with resources) after the West, Texas explosion in 2013. If that is not all the cases that came out of the incident, it is a substantial majority of them. If and when FEMA makes Case Management Grants available to states, the fact that non-profits like the United Methodist Church are providing case management services, means they could possibly be eligible for the grants. Though it would not be much, it would help offset some of the costs associated with caring for volunteers caring for disaster survivors (yes–for those of you who never realized it– volunteers actually come with their own costs).
Take a look at CTCUMC’s Disaster Relief website and some of what they do here.