Today, the Orthodox Union applauded the Senate passage of $19 million in security grants to nonprofits, including many Jewish institutions. The Senate voted on the Homeland Security Appropriations Act Conference Report (passed last week by the House) which included this important tool to help prevent terrorist attacks and protect civilians in case of such attack. This appropriation level is $4 million more than last year, $1 million more than the amount initially legislated by the House of Representatives and higher than the $15 million requested in the President’s budget. The Homeland Security Appropriations Act now awaits President Obama’s signature.The Orthodox Union has worked since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 with other key partners in the Jewish community, including United Jewish Communities, Jewish federations and concerned elected officials initially to create and now to continue and strengthen the nonprofit grants program. To date, the program, part of DHS’s Urban Area Security Initiative has provided approximately sixty-five million dollars to vulnerable nonprofits, including many in the Jewish community. This year, for the first time, the Obama Administration included the program in their proposed budget. The program awards are risk based on the likelihood of a terrorist attack and/or the targets symbolic or historic value.
Nathan J. Diament, OU Director of Public Policy stated:
The Orthodox Union deeply appreciates this much needed aid to synagogues and other Jewish organizations. In addition to the Obama administration, we are grateful to the Members of Congress who pressed for this program, even in a difficult budget year. We offer a special thank you to Senators Mikulski, Specter, Schumer, and Gillibrand as well as Representatives Price, Cantor, Lowey, Serrano and Rogers . We urge the President to swiftly add his signature to this legislation.
Agudas Yisroel released the following statement:
Vote Means Millions in Grants to Non-Profit, Including Jewish, Institutions
With today’s vote in the U.S. Senate, on the heels of one last week in the House of Representatives, the FY 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations bill has been passed by Congress. The bill includes an appropriation of $19 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
The program provides assistance to nonprofit institutions at high risk of terrorist attack for the enhancement of their physical security – through measures like video surveillance equipment, alarmed and reinforced doors and windows, security barriers, metal detectors, locks, gates, fences and personnel security training.
A number of national and local Jewish groups – acting as a coalition under the leadership of the United Jewish Communities – worked together to advocate for the funding. Jewish institutions – including community centers, schools, places of worship, charitable organizations, and social service agencies – have in the past comprised a sizable percentage of such funds’ recipients.
“Threats – and actual incidents – aimed at Jewish targets in the United States and around the world,” said Agudath Israel of America Washington office director and counsel Rabbi Abba Cohen, “point to the particular vulnerability of our community and the need for these funds to bolster security.” A member of the coalition, Rabbi Cohen was active in promoting the creation of the program, and in subsequent appropriations and proposed enhancements.
The Agudath Israel representative noted that this year’s appropriation was a particularly important accomplishment, as opponents of the program have been successful in steadily reducing funding over the past few years. While the approved allocation is still less than the original funding, it increases last year’s allocation by $4 million.
“Unfortunately, we have seen setbacks in the program’s funding,” Rabbi Cohen noted. “But we are hopeful that today’s vote signals a turnabout in the fortunes of the security funds appropriation, a return to a keener recognition of the importance of helping institutions protect themselves from the tragically ever-present threat of terrorism.”
The Agudah representative cited two factors that, he maintains, contributed to this year’s success: the number of domestic and foreign threats and incidents of terror directed at high-risk targets this past year; and the priority afforded the program by President Obama. “This was,” explains Rabbi Cohen, “the first time the security funds appropriation was included in a President’s budget request.
“That says much, and it said much to Congress too.”