In Wake of January Attack on Texas Synagogue, New Legislation Would Almost Triple Funding for Nonprofit Security Grant Program
The Orthodox Union today applauded the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security’s passage of a bill that would authorize $500 million each year for 2023-2028 for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), so that synagogues and other houses of worship, day schools and other nonprofits at risk of terror attacks can improve building security.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program Improvement Act (HR 6825), introduced Friday by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), committee chair, and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), ranking member, comes in the wake of the Jan. 15 hostage-taking at a Colleyville, Texas synagogue, as well as deadly attacks on other synagogues and churches nationally. The bill also directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the NSGP, to establish a dedicated office within the agency to administer the grants.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program is currently funded at $180 million, and the Orthodox Union has been pressing to double that amount to $360 million for 2022. The new legislation, as an authorization bill, may modify the existing NSGP program, but can’t guarantee, the increased funding. The House and Senate Appropriations committees—and each full chamber—will determine final funding levels.
The Orthodox Union, through its Teach Coalition divisions, also has successfully championed state-level security funding programs. In New York, for example, Teach NYS pressed for increased monies for the state’s Securing Communities Against Hate Crimes, with proposed funding at $25 million, and $45 million for Nonpublic School Safety Equipment for 2022; in Pennsylvania, in the most recent budget cycle, the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Fund awarded $5 million to nonprofits at risk for hate crimes, thanks to advocacy by Teach PA; in New Jersey, with help from Teach NJ, the amount proposed for state NSGP funding is $2 million for 2022. In Florida, Teach FL’s push for Jewish day school security funding resulted in $4 million approved for 2021-22.
This week, OU Advocacy Center Chairman Jerry Wolasky and Executive Director Nathan Diament sent this letter to the House committee in support of the bill. The legislation will next be considered by the full House.
Orthodox Union President Mark (Moishe) Bane stated:
“We at the Orthodox Union are constantly seeking new avenues to protect and increase safety for our community and all faith communities. We cannot wait for another attack such as the one we just witnessed at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, or the horrific killing of innocents at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue four years ago, before we as a nation take the necessary actions to protect Jewish people in America.”
Diament, who helped spearhead the creation of the original NSGP legislation more than 15 years ago, stated:
“We already are aware that limited funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program left more than half of eligible organizations who applied for the grants empty-handed in 2021. We commend Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) for their leadership on this important legislation and helping ensure our nation’s most vulnerable institutions have access to the protection they so badly need. We urge the House and the Senate to pass this legislation swiftly.”
The Orthodox Union, or Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, is the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program, administered by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, provides grants of up to $150,000 apiece to synagogues and other houses of worship as well as parochial day schools and other nonprofits at risk of terror attacks.
The funds may be used for security improvements to buildings and to hire security guards. The NSGP is currently funded at $180 million; for more than two years, OU Advocacy has called to increase Congress’s allocation for the NSGP to $360 million. Since 2005, when the OU Advocacy Center helped spearhead the creation of the NSGP, the program has provided $599 million in grants to houses of worship and other nonprofits nationwide. In 2021, more than half of organizations that applied for the NSGP were turned away due to lack of funding.