House, Senate lawmakers push for additional nonprofit security grant funding

135 House lawmakers joined a call for increasing funding to $360 million, while a group of senators urged ‘robust’ funding for the program

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A law enforcement vehicle sits near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas.

Ahead of the 2024 appropriations process, bipartisan groups of lawmakers in both the House and Senate have written to appropriations leaders to express support for increased funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides funds for religious institutions and other nonprofits to increase security measures.

As the letters sent recently by House and Senate members note, the program has consistently been severely underfunded — having fulfilled just over half of funding requests in 2022. While funding for 2023 was increased to $305 million from $250 million, Congress has repeatedly fallen short of the $360 million target that national Jewish groups and lawmakers have pursued for several years.

A group of 135 House lawmakers led by Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) joined a letter last month, obtained by Jewish Insider, again calling to increase funding for the program to $360 million. The 135 lawmakers represent just under a third of House members. Similar letters garnered 160 signatories in 2022 and 145 signatories in 2021. Individuals familiar with the process have told JI that deadlines for appropriations requests were shorter this year in both chambers than last year.

The letter highlights a series of terrorist threats and hate crimes incidents across the country during the past year, including increasing antisemitism in New York, the arrest of an individual who had made threats against Jewish people in Las Vegas, increased antisemitic threats in Kentucky, a plot to attack a synagogue in South Carolina and a bomb threat targeting a Missouri synagogue.

“As we have seen, the need has continue[d] to grow for these federal funds which will become more apparent as the FY23 NSGP application process unfolds,” the letter reads. “The NSGP program is a critical component to the nation’s response to domestic and international threats targeting the nonprofit sector, but the program is significantly over-subscribed.”

A separate letter on the issue was sent by eight senators — Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), James Lankford (R-OK), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Tom Carper (D-DE) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) — on April 11 and obtained by JI. Five senators joined a similar letter at the beginning of 2022.

That letter also highlights that the program is underfunded, that demand is growing and that there is “room for growth,” but requests “robust” and “adequate” funding for the NSGP without naming a specific funding-level target — similar to Senate letters sent in previous years.

The Senate letter notes that law enforcement reports have found that anti-Jewish hate crimes have accounted for the majority of anti-religious crimes for each of the past 24 years.

It also highlights that the damage from an attempted firebombing of a synagogue in New Jersey earlier this year was lessened due to shatter-resistant doors funded with assistance from the NSGP and that cameras funded through the grant program helped law enforcement capture a suspect.

“The nation’s top law enforcement and counterterrorism experts warn that in the current threat environment, faith-based and charitable organizations are at high risk and vulnerable to threats posed by violent extremists,” the Senate letter reads. “The NSGP is perhaps our greatest weapon in defending against violent attacks and threats against nonprofits in our communities… Unfortunately, today’s threat environment provides a compelling public interest in protecting our religious communities and nonprofit groups, especially in this moment of rising vandalism, hate crimes and antisemitism.”

The Senate letter describes the increase to $305 million in funding last year as a “critical step toward meeting the high level of demand” for the program but highlights “the increasing and extraordinary needs of at-risk populations unfortunately [continue] to grow.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has also been supportive of the $360 million funding level.

A range of Jewish groups have typically supported the $360 million funding level for the program, including the Jewish Federations of North America, Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America. The Anti-Defamation League pushed for $500 million last year.

“The bipartisan support from both the House and Senate is encouraging,” Karen Barall, the associate vice president of public affairs and executive director of the advocacy corps of the Jewish Federations of North America, told JI. “Given the very clear, growing need for nonprofit institutions to protect themselves, we are hopeful that Congress will increase Nonprofit Security Grant funding to help secure our communities.”

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.