US government cuts money to safeguard nonprofits

Budget cuts raise concern among American Jewish leaders and members of Congress who point to heightened threats facing Jewish institutions.

US Congress 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Congress 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Homeland security grants to protect nonprofit facilities have been cut nearly in half for 2012, raising concerns among some US Jewish leaders and members of Congress who point to heightened threats facing Jewish institutions.
The Department of Homeland Security announced Friday it was reducing the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, for which faith-based entities are eligible, from $19 million to $10m., as part of a $1 billion reduction in the grant money available to states, cities and private agencies to safeguard facilities from terrorist attacks and other emergencies.
The announcement comes at the same time that federal officials are briefing Jewish organizations on potential threats to Jewish targets in the United States, tensions between Jerusalem and Tehran are heating up and bombing plots and against Jewish and Israeli targets abroad have been uncovered.
“In the midst of this escalation in rhetoric, acts abroad and the increased possibility for violent acts at home against Jewish communal institution, we are faced with steep budget cuts,” said William Daroff, director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America.
“This environment is deeply troubling to us,” he concluded.
Congressman Steve Rothman (D-New Jersey), who last month wrote a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asking that nonprofit security grants not be cut in 2012, also pointed to a recent spate of violence toward synagogues in his state.
“I am disappointed and concerned that funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program was reduced,” Rothman told The Jerusalem Post, though he stressed he appreciated the difficult budget constraints Napolitano faced. “This program provides critical resources to help secure at-risk organizations, like the four synagogues that have recently been targeted in my congressional district.”
Napolitano herself pointed to tough financial conditions in announcing how the 2012 money would be parceled out Friday.
“Given the significant reduction in grant funding this year, we are maximizing limited grant dollars by setting clear priorities and focusing on the areas that face the greatest risk,” Napolitano said.
A Homeland Security official stressed to the Post that the department “maintains a strong commitment to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program,” and said the remaining $10m. would be used for “target hardening and other physical security enhancements at nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack.”
The official added that for the first time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would make nonprofit organizations the recipient for special Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Activities funding, though it was not immediately clear how much would be available for Jewish institutions.
Some Jewish groups have expressed appreciation for the money that remains in the nonprofit funding program.
Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union said his organization welcomed the funding and added, “We are also grateful to the Obama administration for working with us to identify other means by which the DHS and state law enforcement agencies can secure and protect our community and compensate for the budget cuts imposed by Congress.”
Daroff, too, pointed to the new FEMA funding as a positive sign.
“We are pleased that DHS recognizes the important role that nonprofits play in protecting the homeland, and responding to emergencies. Their inclusion in LETPA is a good step forward.”
And he said, “While tough decisions where made by Congress and the administration, we appreciate the outreach both branches of the federal government have made leading up to today’s funding announcement, and we are grateful for, although not delighted about, the reduced allocation.”