By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden wants to increase federal funding for security for nonprofits from $250 million to $360 million, a key request advanced by Jewish organizations in the wake of attacks on Jewish institutions.
Biden included the funding in the homeland security section of the $5.8 trillion federal budget he released Monday. Presidential budgets function as wish lists, and not every component will likely pass congressional muster, but including the request gives its chances of adoption a significant boost.
“In prior years, before President Biden, there were presidential budget proposals submitted to Congress that did not contain any requested funding for the nonprofit security grant program — let alone what we are advocating for,” Nathan Diament, the Washington, D.C., director of the Orthodox Union, said in an email.
For this year, Congress increased funding from $180 million to $250 million. But Jewish groups intensified their effort to increase the funding even more after a hostage-taking crisis at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, in January.
A number of lawmakers, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader from New York, have pressed for the $360 million figure since 2019, when annual funding for nonprofit security was just $90 million.
The Jewish groups cite what they say are increased antisemitic attacks and the vulnerability of other minorities.
Elana Broitman, the vice president for the Jewish Federations of North America, noted a recent spate of bomb threats on Jewish institutions and historically Black colleges and universities.
“The need for these protections has only grown amid increasing terrorist and domestic extremist threats — as we saw in Colleyville and in bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers and a slew of HBCUs in recent weeks,” she said in a statement. “We commend the Biden administration and [Homeland Security] Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas for requesting increased funds to help communities defend themselves against this hatred.”
When the nonprofit security program was established in 2005, the vast majority of grants were given to Jewish institutions. Other institutions have made requests in recent years, and the system is overwhelmed.
“Requests for NSGP grants in 2021 far exceeded program funding, with 3,361 applications totaling nearly $400 million in funding requests versus the program’s $180 million budget,” Secure Community Network, a security consultancy to the national Jewish community, said in a statement praising Biden and Mayorkas for making the request.
The grants pay for measures that make vulnerable institutions more secure.
“NSGP grants have been used to improve door locks, add panic buttons in school classrooms, install cameras, build new security gates, and strengthen glass doors and exterior windows,” SCN said in its statement. “These funds have also allowed communities to invest in security training, which is crucial to preparing for and surviving attacks.”
Separately, JFNA said Monday that a drive to raise money to secure smaller Jewish communities that cannot afford the security infrastructure enjoyed by larger communities has surpassed its goal of $54 million, and has raised $62 million.