newsU.S.-Israel Relations

Jewish and pro-Israel groups welcome government spending, COVID relief package

The bill allocates $82 billion in education funding, including $2.75 billion to support Jewish, Catholic and other nonpublic schools, as well as annual U.S. assistance to Israel.

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish and pro-Israel groups expressed appreciation to Congress for passing a 5,593-page spending package on Monday night that includes $1.4 trillion to fund the government, in addition to annual U.S. assistance to Israel, and as much as $900 billion in relief for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill now goes to U.S. President Donald Trump to sign it into law.

Relief includes $600 stimulus checks per adult and child. Single people earning up to $75,000 will receive $600, while married couples earning up to $150,000 will receive $1,200. Checks will be reduced by $5 for every $100 in income for those above those thresholds. Single people who earn more than $87,000 or married couples who earn more than $174,000 will not receive money.

The relief also allocates $300 per week in enhanced unemployment insurance for 11 weeks, more funds for vaccine distribution and COVID-19 testing.

It also consists of $319 billion for small businesses, including $284 billion in loans for the Paycheck Protection Program from the Small Business Administration (SBA). This included $20 billion through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program and $15 billion for theaters, live venues and museums.

The bill allocates $82 billion in education funding, including $2.75 billion to support Jewish, Catholic and other nonpublic schools.

The spending bill includes $180 million in funding for security for nonprofit institutions.

In a statement applauding the legislation ahead of it being passed, the Jewish Federations of North America said—citing a record number of anti-Semitic attacks in the United States in 2019— that “this bolstered funding will help to secure thousands of synagogues, Jewish community agencies and organizations, as well as other faith and communal groups who have too frequently been the victims of deadly attacks.”

The bill also includes the seventh year of funding for Holocaust survivors and older adults with a history of trauma and their families. JFNA said that its “Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care, which benefits from federal funding, will be able to continue to its work.”

In a statement ahead of the legislative package being passed, B’nai B’rith International expressed gratitude for the economic relief and extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, though said it was “disappointed that there were no provisions made for low-income senior housing in this stimulus bill.”

“As the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income, nonsectarian housing for seniors in the country, we are focused on the urgent needs of this population,” continued the organization. “We would have appreciated funds for more supplies, staffing, service coordinators and Wi-Fi accessibility for subsidized housing for seniors.”

Ahead of it being passed, the Orthodox Union also applauded the government spending and relief package, especially for K-12 schools.

In the American Jewish community, almost 1,000 Jewish day schools educate approximately 300,000 students and employ many thousands of teachers and other staff. As with so many other institutions, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis has been terribly disruptive and costly to these schools, it explained.

“That is why it is essential for this latest federal relief package to include a great amount of support for these schools and, among them, America’s Jewish, Catholic and other nonpublic schools,” said OU executive director for public policy Nathan Diament. “We are all in this together. We cannot beat back the pandemic, much less educate children, in some schools but not others. Thus, we are very thankful that congressional leaders set aside $2.75 billion to help our schools in this emergency.”

‘Ensuring critical support for Israel’s security’

Moreover, the bill includes legislation protecting victims of terrorism and restoring Sudan’s immunity from terror-related lawsuits in the aftermath of the Northeast African nation recently agreeing to normalize ties with Israel.

The legislative package includes the annual $3.8 billion in assistance to Israel in accordance with the 2016 10-year $38 billion memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the United States and Israel. It consisted of $3.3 billion in security assistance and $500 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation authorized by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed earlier this month.

The bill also allocates $47.5 million in anti-tunnel technology and $25 million for counter-unmanned aerial systems, two burgeoning areas of cooperation in addressing threats from tunnel attacks and drones.

Additionally, the legislation includes $2 million to fund a new U.S.-Israel cooperative initiative on COVID-related and health technologies research; $2 million to fund a new Israel-U.S. Agency for International Development international development cooperative program to support local solutions to address sustainability challenges; $4 million for the U.S.-Israel Center of Excellence in Energy and Water; $2 million for the Israel Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation supporting U.S.-Israel energy cooperative programs; and $2 million for U.S.-Israel cooperative efforts related to border security, maritime security, biometrics, cybersecurity and video analytics.

Finally, the bill allocates $2 million to fund a new strategic dialogue of the Eastern Mediterranean Partnership among the United States, Israel, Greece and Cyprus; and $50 million to fund and authorize the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Fund aimed at investing in economic and people-to-people partnerships between Israelis and Palestinians, named for Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who is retiring and has been known as a stalwart ally of the Jewish state in Congress.

Following the legislation’s passage, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee heralded Congress “for ensuring critical support for Israel’s security and strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

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