IPA Memo on Department of Homeland Security Funding

Posted on December 8, 2004 In Blog

TO: Synagogue, Day School & Community Leaders
FROM: Nathan J. Diament, Director, Inst. for Public Affairs
DATE: December 8, 2004
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 terrorist threats. Particularly in the wake of the attacks of “9-11,” the Orthodox Union has been working to address this issue on several fronts.

Most recently, 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, in June, 2004 the U.S. Dept. 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. In October, 2004, President Bush signed into law the Fiscal Year 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations Act which contains $25 million in Federal assistance dedicated to non-profits determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security to be at high-risk of international terrorist attack. This month, DHS has issued its program guidelines and application materials for FY2005 grant applications.

Thus, there are now three sources of funds available for non-profits:

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

2. Cities have more than $2 billion dollars in Federal funds to disburse; there are 3 types of city grants: “formula grants,” “high-density urban-area grants,” and “law enforcement terrorism-prevention grants.” Non-profits are eligible for these grants coordinated by their local or regional Homeland Security Director in the context of the local or regional homeland security plan.

3. $25 million of federal homeland security funds are available in the 18 specifically designated urban areas for grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofits – including synagogues and day schools — determined to be at high-risk of international terrorist attack. Congressional sponsors have made clear that these funds may be used only for protection from international terrorist attacks and may not be used for any other purposes.
Regarding each of these three funding streams, it is clear that 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. (See Appendices I and J to the UJC manual.)

Yesterday, UJC published a “how-to manual” on accessing federal, state and local homeland security funds and transmitted this publication to all its affiliated local Federations and CRCs. We are forwarding this manual along to you herewith.

As you will see, the manual guides local Federations to begin taking the steps toward accessing these funds immediately – with critical steps to take place between now and the end of January. In the next few weeks, local Federations will likely develop a 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 Dept. of Community & Synagogue Services, is 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 Associate Director Darren Schneider at 202-513-6484.

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. (See UJC manual page 6.)

The UJC manual (at pages 8-13) outlines the steps local Federations will take over the next several weeks. You should undertake steps immediately – either through contacting the local Federation leadership or local government officials with whom you have relationships to become involved in this process at its earliest stage.

In the coming weeks, OU personnel from the IPA and Synagogue Services Dept. will be reaching out to many of you to discuss this process and how we can work together on this critical matter for our community. If you have questions and wish to contact us, please call IPA Associate Director Darren Schneider at 202-513-6484.

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