Homeland Security Subsidies for At-Risk Non-Profits; Time to Take Action

Posted on February 6, 2007 In Blog


TO: Synagogue, Day School & Community Leaders
FROM: Nathan J. Diament, Director, Institute for Public Affairs
DATE: February 1, 2007
RE: Homeland Security Subsidies for At-Risk Non-Profits; Time to Take Action

The Orthodox Union is acutely aware of the increased concern within our community, and the Jewish community at large, over the physical safety and security of our synagogues, schools and other institutions in light of post 9-11 terrorist threats.

Some time ago, the OU/IPA partnered with United Jewish Communities and other non-profit organizations to create opportunities for our community’s institutions to receive financial subsidies toward the significant cost of upgrading physical security we must otherwise bear alone. As we previously informed you, as early as June, 2004 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued policy guidance to state governments administering federal homeland security funds that a portion of such funds could be used to better secure at-risk non-profits. Congress has again appropriated $25 million in Federal assistance dedicated to non-profits determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security to be at high-risk of terrorist attack. Last month DHS issued its program guidelines and application materials for FY2007 grant applications.

There are now several sources of funds available for non-profits:

1. States will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal funds to disburse and non-profits are eligible for these funds as coordinated by their state’s Homeland Security Director in the context of their state’s homeland security plan.

2. Grant programs such as the Urban Area Security Initiative (for 501c(3) non-profits deemed at risk) will disburse the $25 million to non-profits in the affected urban areas. As well there are Homeland Security Grant Program (totaling $1.7 billion) and Emergency Management Performance Grants that include “Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program,” “State Homeland Security Program,” “Citizen Cops Programs,” and the “Metropolitan Medical Response System.” Non-profits are eligible for some of these grants as coordinated by their local or regional Homeland Security Director in the context of the local or regional homeland security plan.

Regarding each of these funding streams, religious non-profits are as eligible as secular entities to receive government funds to bolster their physical security. The June 2004 DHS policy guidance did not exclude religious nonprofits from receiving such funds from state or local governments on the basis of religion-neutral risk security criteria. (In fact, the State of Maryland has already awarded tens of thousands of dollars of such funds to synagogues and day schools.) And, the legislative history of the $25 million allocation for grants to at-risk 501(c)(3) entities explicitly states an intention to include synagogues and other religious nonprofits. In addition, recent Congressional history and guidance by DHS indicates non-profits are to be considered in any way possible as part of state homeland security strategy.

UJC recently published a memo regarding accessing federal, state and local homeland security funds and transmitted this publication to all its affiliated local Federations and CRCs. We are posting this for the community here as a PDF.

Local Federations are instructed to begin taking the steps toward accessing these funds immediately and will likely update their list of Jewish institutions in your community — selecting from JCCs, day schools, synagogues and senior citizens residences among others — to assess for security vulnerabilities and incorporate into a proposal for funding the Federation will present to your state’s government officials for funding support.

The OU, through the IPA and the Department of Community & Synagogue Services, are eager to work with interested shuls and schools to assist in efforts to obtain such financial support for security enhancements. We urge you to consider taking the following steps in the coming days:

1. In many communities, it may be most worthwhile for you to first reach out and contact your local Federation or CRC executive to express your interest in being included in this process. If you are going to do so, we urge you to make this contact immediately, and inform us of whether you are, indeed, invited to participate in the process. Kindly keep us informed of your contact in this regard and your progress by telephoning IPA Deputy Director Howie Beigelman at 212-613-8123 or at howieb@ou.org.

2. In the absence of your having a pre-existing relationship with your local Federation leadership, the OU would be happy to try and facilitate the development of such a relationship for you in this context or, alternatively, discuss with you the prospects of an independent approach by your synagogue for seeking public security funding support.

3. To facilitate and make more likely that your institution will be viewed as a “good” candidate for homeland security assistance, undertake (if you have not already done so) to have your facility receive a security assessment immediately; your local police department or F.B.I. office are available to perform such assessments. Additionally, SCAN (a professional Jewish community agency in which the OU is a full partner) is available to offer such assistance as well.

If you have questions and wish to contact us, please call IPA Deputy Director Howie Beigelman at 212-613-8123 or at howieb@ou.org.

We look forward to working with you to the benefit of our community.

Once again, to access a PDF of the UJC memo regarding accessing federal, state and local homeland security funds please click here.