House committee advances bill authorizing more funding for synagogue security

Legislation authorizes $500 million to help non-profits boost security.

By JNS.org

The U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on Wednesday advanced a bill that would authorize $500 million in annual funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) which provides funding to bolster security for targeted nonprofit institutions such as places of worship, day schools, museums and community centers.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program Improvement Act (H.R. 6825) was introduced by committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and ranking member Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) in the wake of the Jan. 15 hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, as well as deadly attacks at other houses of worship in recent years.

Since NSGP was passed 15 years ago with urging from major Jewish communal organizations, funding had steadily increased to $180 million last year. Still, this amount was not nearly enough to cover the applications the grant received.

Jewish organizations and lawmakers, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have long called for funding for the grant to be increased to $360 million, with calls for the increase gaining steam after the recent hostage situation in Colleyville.

“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,” Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union (OU) Advocacy Center said in a news release Thursday.

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Diament commended the leaders of the bill and urged its passage in the Senate.

The bill would also direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the NSGP, to establish a dedicated office within the agency to administer the grants as many nonprofit organizations have complained about the difficulty of applying or getting assistance with the application process.

“We at the Orthodox Union are constantly seeking new avenues to protect and increase safety for our community and all faith communities,” OU President Mark Bane said in the release. “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.”

The bill further simplifies the application process for the grant, which is often cited by smaller organizations, including by Congregation Beth Israel’s Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, as a significant hurdle.

“As we most recently saw in Colleyville, Jewish and other faith communities need support to ensure their safety and security, and the Nonprofit Security Grant Program is a critically important piece of that puzzle,” Elana Broitman, senior vice president of the Jewish Federations of North America, which also worked with lawmakers to develop the bill, said. “Jewish Federations appreciate the committee’s work in advancing this authorization, and hope for its swift passage in both chambers of Congress.”

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The act is only an authorization to appropriate funds, so the final number at which the program will be funded will be determined through the appropriations process to fund the government for 2022.