Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his intention on Monday to pursue a $1 billion surge in funding for the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which helps bolster security for synagogues, day schools and other at-risk locations.
The legislation would more than triple the existing $305 million in annual funds available for the program, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency administers. Speaking at a press conference, Schumer said that that level of funding was necessary in response to the spike in antisemitic incidents in the United States following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel.
“Our communities are under threat like never before, especially since the massacre of Oct. 7. It has spawned a spike in antisemitism, in Islamophobia and in hate incidents across America,” Schumer said. The Anti-Defamation League “reports an over 300% rise in antisemitic incidents since that terrible day,” he added. “Our job is to overcome and confront this.”
Schumer also cited FBI statistics from before Oct. 7, which show that while Jews make up only 2% of the U.S. population they account for 60% of the targets in hate crimes motivated by religious bias.
All nonprofits are eligible for the program, but Jewish organizations and advocacy groups, in particular, have embraced the security grants.
Nathan Diament, executive director of public policy at the Orthodox Union, was one of several Jewish leaders whom Schumer called up to speak briefly at the press conference.
“In the American Jewish community, our freedom to worship is very sadly not without freedom from fear,” Diament said. “Too many people in the American Jewish community are fearful going to synagogue on a daily basis.”
“That is compounded by the fact that right now we are essentially paying an antisemitism tax,” Diament added. “Security costs for synagogues and for Jewish day schools in the United States have gone up exponentially just in the past few weeks since the war between Israel and Hamas began.”
Representatives of New York’s Muslim, Sikh and black Christian communities also welcomed the proposal.
Previous efforts to increase funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program have faced hurdles in Congress. The $305 million that passed in the 2022 omnibus spending package in December represented a 22% increase over the previous year. It fell short of the $360 million sought by many Jewish groups, and which U.S. President Joe Biden requested in his original budget proposal.
As part of a larger domestic supplemental spending package, Biden is currently seeking an additional $200 million for the program on top of the existing 2023 allocation.
Along with a proposed $20 million in additional funding for improved FEMA administration, the Biden and Schumer proposals would make available a combined $1.22 billion for the security grant program.