(May 2, 2019 / JNS) In the aftermath of the Chabad of Poway shooting in Southern California on April 27, with one dead and three injured—leading to calls for increased funding for security at Jewish institutions, especially synagogues—the Department of Homeland Security will make a major change to its Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) that numerous nonprofits depend on to protect themselves from physical threats.
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 the first time, DHS will allow recipients to also use the funding to hire armed personnel, though they must be contracted security personnel or from a local police department.
A total of $60 million was allocated for the program for 2019. The maximum awards for the NSGP-Urban Area program is $100,000, while the maximum for the NSGP-State program is identical.
Recipients may use up to 50 percent of the award towards armed security. 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.
The deadline for nonprofits to apply for the grant is May 10.
A FEMA spokesperson previously told JNS that examples of “physical security enhancements” include, but are not limited to, “alarm systems, impact-resistant doors and gate, lighting, access control systems, video systems, jersey walls, fencing, fixed or handheld screening systems.”
For 2020, the Trump administration requested $758.4 million for the State Homeland Security and Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) 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.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), along with 32 colleagues from both sides of the aisle, sent a letter to Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.)—the chairman and ranking member, respectively—of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to request $75 million for the NSGP.
Specifically, they called for $50 million for the NSGP in urban areas, in addition to $25 million for program recipients in non-urban places.
Regarding the allowance of NSGP funding to go towards armed security, “Senator Portman is aware of the change, and is hopeful that it will provide more holistic security for nonprofits and faith-based organizations. He will continue to advocate for the program in the Senate throughout the appropriations process,” deputy spokesperson Emily Benavides told JNS.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, pending is the Securing American Non-Profit Organizations Against Terrorism Act of 2019 to assist religious institutions and schools tighten their security and increase training to guard their community from threats.
As of 2014, out of all religious affiliations, Jewish institutions have received the largest share of allocated funding under the NSGP, according to figures provided to JNS by FEMA.
In 2014, Jewish institutions received $12,239,283 out of the $13 million allocated to faith-based institutions (or 94.84 percent); in 2015, they received $12,256,250 out of $13 million (or 94.28 percent); in 2016, they got $18,052,439 out of $20 million (or 90.26 percent); in 2017, they got $23,203,758 out of $25 million (or 92.82 percent); and in 2018, they obtained $53,317,664 out of $60 million (or 88.86 percent).
Over the four-year period, Jewish institutions have received $119,069,404 of the $131 million, or almost 91 percent of total funding, allocated to faith-based places through the NSGP.
In the aftermath of the shooting, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $15 million for the State Nonprofit Security Grant Program in the state budget that will provide up to $200,000 per recipient and will for the first time allow for security personnel funding for nonprofits at risk of bias crimes or attacks due to their ideology, beliefs or mission.
“Once again, American Jews are compelled to ask what more can be done to protect houses of worship, indeed all Jewish institutions, even as we extend our deep condolences to the family and friends of Lori Gilbert-Kaye, and full recovery of those wounded, including a child, in this heinous attack during a Shabbat service on the last day of Passover,” said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris.
Among religious groups, Jews are the most targeted for hate crimes annually in the United States. In 2017, 58.1 percent of religious-bias hate crimes were anti-Semitic, according to the FBI.
A total of 938 hate crimes were committed against Jews in 2017—an increase from 684 the previous year.