After Texas Attack, U.S. Lawmakers and Jewish Groups Push to Boost Security Funding

Bipartisan U.S. lawmakers and 10 major cross-denominational Jewish groups push to double security grants for houses of worship from $180 million to $360 million

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington
Community members arrive for a healing service for Congregation Beth Israel following hostage standoff at the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue, at White's Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas, last week.
Community members arrive for a healing service for Congregation Beth Israel following hostage standoff at the Colleyville, Texas, synagogue, at White's Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, TexCredit: Yffy Yossifor /AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington

WASHINGTON – In the days since the attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, major Jewish establishment organizations and bipartisan, bicameral U.S. lawmakers have called for doubled funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides financial aid for houses of worship and nonprofits to improve their security.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a major push to double the funding from $180 million to $360 million, saying religious spaces should be places of peace rather than places of fear, worry and certainly not targets of attacks.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has publicly expressed support for increased funding beyond the $180 million, noting that the administration will work intensively with Congress to ensure faith-based communities are better able to upgrade their security.

“Increasing this funding is a foundational step to reinforcing and fortifying pillars of our community, places that should always remain houses of worship, prayer, gathering, and peace,” Mayorkas said immediately after the Coleyville attack.

Senator Schumer's remarks come one day after 10 major cross-denominational organizations — spearheaded by the Jewish Federations of North America but including the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and Agudath Israel of America — urged U.S. President Joe Biden to double the funding.

"We appreciate that bipartisan efforts have led to recent robust funding for FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). Unfortunately, less than half the applications submitted in Fiscal Year 2021 were funded and $220 million in requests were left unfulfilled. The hundreds of thousands of houses of worship and more than a million nonprofits in this country need your leadership. Please work with Congress to increase funding for this critical program to $360 million for Fiscal Year 2022 and ensure that this increase is part of your budget request for Fiscal Year 2023," they wrote.

The NSGP, which was established by Congress in 2005, has seen its appropriation levels grow from $60 million to $180 million since 2018. It is slated to receive an additional $100 million in funding in the Build Back Better Act passed by the House in November, though that legislation has stalled in the Senate due to opposition from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

A bipartisan group of Senators — Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), James Lankford (R-OK) and Rob Portman (R-OH) — wrote to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders immediately following the Colleyville attack urging them to fund the NSGP "at an appropriate amount," though their letter did not detail a specific funding level.

A separate House letter organized by Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell and Republican Rep. John Katko is currently circulating among lawmakers, asking Appropriations Committee and Homeland Security Subcommittee leaders to fund the program "at a level that reflects increased risks to the nonprofit sector." While a similar letter last May called for $360 million, the new letter does not specify a funding level.

The Anti-Defamation League, meanwhile, reiterated its call for $360 million in funding, which it first proposed following the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. “With threats against synagogues and other Jewish institutions arguably at an all-time high, it is imperative that the federal government provides appropriate levels of funding to mitigate the threat,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “As we saw in Texas, it is urgently critical for Congress to increase funding to protect these non-profit organizations from future acts of terrorism or hate-motivated violence.”

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