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Tightening purse strings

Lawmakers remain supportive of nonprofit security grants despite tightening budgets, advocate says

Lawmakers warned of cuts across the board, but remained ‘agreeable’ to protecting the nonprofit security grant program; Holocaust survivor aid could see cuts

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

Following a series of advocacy meetings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, a senior Jewish Federations of North America official told Jewish Insider that lawmakers are warning advocates to prepare for budget cuts in 2024, but seem inclined to preserve funding for nonprofit security grants.

The meetings, between members of JFNA’s National Young Leadership Cabinet and 18 lawmakers, including senior members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, followed an announcement earlier in the week that the House would target fiscal year 2022 funding levels in its appropriations bills — rather than the higher fiscal year 2023 levels agreed to in the debt limit deal last month.

“Broadly, everybody pretty much said, ‘Be prepared for cuts,’ and expressed what we all know, [which] is that this is going to be a tougher budget year,” said Karen Paikin Barall, JFNA’s associate vice president of public affairs and executive director of its Advocacy Corps.

Priorities for the JFNA group included the Nonprofit Security Grant Program — which received a $10 million funding boost in House Republicans’ initial draft bill, before the new spending limits were announced — and Holocaust survivor aid funding. Outside of the government funding space, the group also supported a Holocaust education bill, the HEAL Act.

Barall said that Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), who met with JFNA activists this week and chairs the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee responsible for NSGP funding, is “interested in protecting the $10 million [increase], he’s made that clear.”

Broadly, Barall said, lawmakers were supportive of the program and understood the necessity of protecting and potentially growing it, even as the House seeks to shrink its budget allocations.

“The overall feeling we got was they were so agreeable to that when we brought it up,” Barall said. “There was agreement… which is the best thing when you’re asking for money at a very sensitive time. I don’t want to be overconfident, but we felt good at the end of the day.”

She added that “we are not hearing” that the NSGP is likely to be cut below its 2023 funding level of $305 million. 

But, Barall continued, the Labor, Health and Human Services bill — which includes Holocaust survivor assistance — is expected to see “significant cuts.”

“We’re very concerned about that, and we need to make sure that we at least maintain level funding,” Barall said. “We’ve asked for an increase to $10 million [from $8.5 million]. If we are able to keep level funding, we would be thankful for that as well. We just really can’t afford a cut.”

She noted that grants provided under the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program have a two-year duration, so cutting funding this year below last year’s levels would terminate services for some individuals in the middle of their grants.

Barall was optimistic about the HEAL Act, noting that it has already reached well over 100 co-sponsors in the House, and that “I don’t think it’s much of a reach” to expect that it will come to the House floor by the end of the current Congress.

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