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Damage to the First Baptist Church of Rockport after Hurricane Harvey hit Rockport, Texas last year. Photo: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it has revised its rules to allow private nonprofit houses of worship to be eligible for disaster disaster relief funds to assist with damages from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Why it matters: The move announced on Tuesday comes more than three months after President Trump waded into an ongoing legal challenge by suggesting that churches should be able to get federal disaster relief funds. The suit involves three Texas churches severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey last year that accused the federal agency of religious discrimination, per the AP.

What it means: Religious institutions could now be qualified for assistance as "community centers, without regard to their secular or religious nature," FEMA said.

The rule change would affect properties that sustained damage from a major disaster on or after Aug. 23 2017 or that had unresolved applications pending before with FEMA as of that date.

Facilities primarily used for political, athletic, religious, recreational, vocational, or academic training, conferences, or similar activities are ineligible, the agency said.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.