(June 14, 2019 / JNS) The Ohio Senate recently released an amended version of the state’s operating budget for the next two fiscal years that includes key funding for nonprofit security needs in the aftermath of increasing attempted and carried-out attacks on houses of worship, faith-based institutions, cause-based nonprofits and individuals who are members of religious, racial or ethnic minorities.
The House-passed version of the House bill included $2.75 million annually of the biennium for “target hardening” grants to help protect vulnerable nonprofits.
The Senate version proposes an additional $250,000 annually to that appropriation, bringing the target hardening total to $3 million annually.
“Shuls and yeshivahs are often open seven days a week, and they have become targets of deadly violence,” said Rabbi Yitz Frank, Ohio director of Agudath Israel. “This proactive step by Ohio’s legislative leaders will help make these [places] safer before something happens.”
“Unfortunately necessary, we are grateful for the leadership shown here in making this happen,” he continued. “We also thank Ohio Jewish Communities for their leading role on this critical issue.”
“A terror plot foiled by law enforcement in Toledo just months ago is bookended by the terror attacks at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway. Not a week-or a day—goes by without a new violent anti-Semitic attack somewhere,” said Ohio Jewish Communities executive director Howie Beigelman. “The KKK came to Dayton. Christians are killed at Easter services in Sri Lanka, African-American churches are firebombed in Louisiana, and Muslims are gunned down at Christchurch mosques.”
He continued, saying that “houses of worship, schools and community centers should be safe spaces, but instead have become potential targets.”
Moreover, the Senate bill adds a $1.25 million annual appropriation to a matching grant program so that nonprofits, such as chartered nonpublic schools and synagogues, can hire armed security personnel, including school resource officers and special duty police.
Program recipients are in urban and non-urban area
On the federal level, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will allow recipients to use up to half of their award from the NSGP towards hiring armed personnel, though they must be contracted security personnel or from a local police department. They may seek a waiver from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the program, if they wish to use more than that percentage of the funding.
Since its founding in 2002, the NSGP provides “funding to support target hardening and other physical security enhancements for nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack,” according to the agency.
For 2020, the Trump administration requested $758.4 million for the State Homeland Security and Urban Areas Security Initiative grants to states, territories and localities (In 2019, it requested more than $798.2 million, though Congress increased allocations to nearly $1.14 billion).
The funding, according to the spokesperson, “may be used for the same purposes as the Non-Profit Security Grant Program.”
Funding for the NSGP in 2020 will be allocated once the 2020 budget takes effect.
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress to provide funding to religious institutions, including synagogues, to protect attendees from potential attacks.
Introduced by U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act would allocate $75 million annually for fiscal years 2020 through 2024 for the NSGP.
Were it to be enacted, $50 million would go towards program recipients in urban areas, while the remainder would go toward recipients in non-urban places.
Regarding the allowance of NSGP funding to go towards armed security, “Our goal was to ensure FEMA continues to have the flexibility to administer the program as threats evolve,” Portman spokesperson Emily Benavides previously told JNS.
However, for the time being, Jewish institutions are largely on their own to find funding for security.
Nonetheless, on Tuesday, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved $90 million for the NSGP.