Booster Shot

Build Back Better bill includes $100 million boost for Nonprofit Security Grant Program

Between the social spending bill and 2022 spending bill, $280 million is now on the table for the nonprofit security grant program

Courtesy

Sen. Jacky Rosen

Tucked within Democrats’ $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better” budget proposal announced on Thursday is an additional $100 million boost for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), a partial victory for lawmakers and community activists who have called current funding levels insufficient.

Both the House and Senate have proposed holding funding 2022 for the NSGP — which provides grants for nonprofits and religious institutions to upgrade their security — steady at its 2021 level of $180 million, despite a spike in hate crimes and a significant 2021 shortfall. If passed, the new budget would bring the total for 2022 funding up to $280 million.

That’s still $80 million short of the $360 million funding level that Jewish community organizations and the program’s most vocal backers on Capitol Hill have said is necessary, but represents progress for NSGP’s supporters.

Some lawmakers had been working to include a $180 million boost to the NSGP in the Build Back Better bill, a source familiar with the matter told Jewish Insider. Negotiations settled on the $100 million level some time ago, the individual added. The total package has also been halved in recent weeks, from $3.5 trillion to its current level.

House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said in a statement that the NSGP provision was “a result of bicameral discussions.”

An individual familiar with the matter told JI that Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) spearheaded the negotiations for the NSGP boost in the Build Back Better bill, first raising the proposal in a letter to Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chair Gary Peters (D-MI) in August, which was obtained by JI.

Rosen worked with Peters and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to secure the funding, the source said, and held a follow-up discussion with Schumer on the Senate floor earlier this month to guarantee the funding would continue in the package amid intra-party negotiations over the package’s topline and details.

“I’m pleased that the new framework for the reconciliation package includes my request to allocate significantly increased resources for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program,” Rosen said in a statement to JI. “The alarming uptick in antisemitic incidents has highlighted a clear and urgent need to provide vulnerable Jewish institutions with physical security enhancements, and that’s exactly what this robust investment of an additional $100 million for the program will do.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who helped organize a letter from 145 House members supporting $360 million in NSGP funding said “the massive NSGP grant funding included in Build Back Better… demonstrates our unswerving commitment to fighting antisemitism. Our vigilance to stand with our Jewish neighbors can never waiver.”

Although the funding still falls short of their $360 million goal, Jewish community groups praised the additional funding as a positive step.

Anti-Defamation League Vice President for Government Relations Max Sevillia told JI, that the additional funding “would bring us closer to the $360 million we believe is necessary,” but “federal support for security resources has been insufficient despite increases last year.”

“We are pleased with the result because the increase represents Congress’s recognition that the danger grows. And that as it grows, current levels are not adequate,” Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s vice president for government affairs, told JI. “More funds are needed to more fully protect the Jewish and other at-risk communities. This has been our clear and consistent message to the administration and to lawmakers.”

Nathan Diament, executive director of the Orthodox Union Action Center, told JI that “this will certainly be helpful in bridging the gap and helping all kinds of communities make themselves safer.”

“Communities can only flourish when their security needs are met,” Jewish Federations of North America CEO Eric Fingerhut added. “The inclusion of an additional $100 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program will save lives, help keep Jewish and other communities safe and allow them to flourish.” 

Advocates are not yet calling it quits on pushing for the full $360 million funding level. While neither the House nor Senate offered increased funding for the NSGP in their proposed appropriations bills, activists remain hopeful that could change.

“The appropriations bills are still yet to [be finalized],” a source familiar with the process told JI. “If we end up in this bill getting the full amount, then we won’t need to do it in the appropriations bill. But that’s going to be another opportunity.”

Agudah’s Cohen said, “We will work for whatever funding is deemed to better meet the need, if and when we are presented with such an opportunity and interest.”