WASHINGTON – A week after the antisemitic attack on Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, a bipartisan group of senators is pushing to increase the funding of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP).
The program allows houses of worship and other nonprofits at risk to apply for grants of up to $100,000 each. The money can be used for security measures such as fences, cameras, stronger doors and the hiring of personnel.
In recent years, the program’s budget was increased several times due to the rise in antisemitism across the US. In 2019, Congress approved an increase in the security grants by 50% from $60m. to $90m.
The project’s current budget is $180 million annually, and Jewish organizations have been lobbying Congress to increase it to $360m.
US Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), James Lankford (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee requesting that the program be “adequately funded” to “meet the needs of at-risk organizations this fiscal year.”
“This weekend, another attack occurred on a faith-based institution, in what the FBI is calling a “terrorism-related” matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted,” the senators wrote. “This attack underscores how extremists pose a threat to the Jewish community and to other religious, racial, and ethnic groups.”
Saturday’s armed hostage event at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, could have ended tragically, they added. “It was one of many incidents reported this past year of racially and ethnically motivated violence that continues to target faith and community-based organizations, including shootings, arsons, bombings, assaults, and property damage,” their letter reads.
“It crystalized how difficult it is for law enforcement to detect and prevent these threats before they occur, and it raised potential questions about our mechanisms to vet individuals coming to the United States who may do our citizens harm.”
They went on to say that the enormity and trauma of the event, “much of it live-streamed, reverberated in communities across the country and served as a catalyst to energize more extremists and terrorist groups to act in kind.”
The senators noted that the NSGP was established to support the physical security and security activities of at-risk faith-based and other nonprofit organizations, “who cannot shoulder alone the investments they require to deter, detect and prevent violent extremist attacks from happening in their communities.”
“For this reason, and in recognition of the increased threat environment under which these organizations must navigate, we respectfully encourage you to appropriately fund NSGP in Fiscal Year 2022,” they added. “Congress should do all that it can to protect at-risk and vulnerable nonprofits from today’s increasing extremist and hate-motivated threats.”
In addition, some House members voiced support for the move as well. “For years, I have underscored how crucial the Nonprofit Security Grant Program is to keeping our communities safe,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) said in a statement.
“I have also pushed for additional funding for these grants, and the hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas once again illustrated how essential this need is. As I’ve said, we can never take a backseat to safety. It must always be the top priority. I am proud to have helped increase funding for this program, and I will continue fighting for even more money so that additional houses of worship and nonprofits can protect themselves from threats and attacks.”