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FUNDING CUT

Senate Appropriations proposes cutting nonprofit security grant funding

The committee called to cut more than $18 million from the program, days after revelations that the program funded less than 42% of requests in 2023

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

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

In a move that Nonprofit Security Grant Program supporters called “deeply troubling,” the Senate Appropriations Committee proposed cutting $18 million in funding from the federal assistance program in 2024, days after Jewish Insider reported that the program funded less than 42% of requests at a higher funding level in 2023.

The committee introduced and approved on Thursday its version of the 2024 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which included $286.7 million for the NSGP, down from $305 million in 2023 — an amount that itself fell well short of meeting demand. The program provides funds to nonprofits and religious institutions to improve security.

The House Appropriations Committee had proposed a $10 million increase in funding, to $315 million. The White House, as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and other lawmakers, have supported $360 million in funding. Both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees also initially pushed for the $360 million level last year.

“Because of the reduction in our topline spending numbers, we imposed even, across-the-board cuts in all FEMA funding,” a congressional aide told Jewish Insider, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the NSGP. “This includes reductions in direct response funding, assistance to firefighters, port security grants, and flood mitigation, among others. This was not unique to the homeland security bill, programs across all the funding bills saw similar cuts.”

Although House Republicans are pushing for overall federal spending cuts, the House bill includes a significantly higher topline for the overall homeland security budget than the Senate bill — $92 billion to the Senate’s $61 billion. The House pulled funding away from other spending categories like Labor, Health and Human Services and Education to supplement homeland security funding.

“At a time of rising antisemitism, it would be outrageous and dangerous to decrease funding for this life-saving program,” Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) said in a statement to JI. “We need to make sure that our synagogues, community centers, and other nonprofits have the resources needed to protect themselves from targeted violence. I will fight to make sure this program is fully funded.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, said during Thursday’s appropriations committee markup that the bill included “targeted increases,” directed largely toward border security and combating fentanyl trafficking, and “some tough cuts as well.” He added that “we do well by FEMA.”

Subcommittee ranking member Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) also highlighted the funding increases for border security and combating fentanyl.

The Senate announcement, which came on the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av, prompted objections from Jewish groups, which have been pushing for funding to be increased to at least $360 million amid consistently rising incidents of antisemitism nationwide.

Elana Broitman, the senior vice president of public affairs for the Jewish Federations of North America, said that JFNA is “deeply disappointed” by the proposal, highlighting this year’s funding gaps and “alarming high” levels of faith-motivated hate crimes.

“That is certainly why the administration’s budget and the White House Antisemitism Strategy proposed $360 million for the NSGP,” Broitman continued. “We are grateful that the House has included an increase to $315 million in its appropriation bill, and we urge Congress to pass a funding level at least at this level for this program that is critical to the safety of our communities.”

Final funding levels for this and other programs will ultimately be ironed out in a conference committee between the House and Senate as they resolve differences between their versions of the bills.

“We are deeply disappointed that the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Bill would recommend a funding cut for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, particularly when the House Homeland Security Appropriations Bill recommended funding at $315 million,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told JI. “These grants are critical to the safety and security of not only the Jewish community, but nonprofits and religious institutions around the country. We will continue to work to see this number increased during conference to ensure that funds meet the growing need.”

Nathan Diament, the executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, said in a series of tweets that the proposal is “deeply troubling” and “makes no sense — especially [with the] dramatic level of demand.”

“[OU Advocacy] will fight this cut [and] press for [a] much needed boost,” Diament continued.

Murphy told reporters earlier this year that he felt the topline funding level for the Homeland Security bill would be insufficient.

“I just look at the budget I’m in charge of and cannot figure out how we would make a Homeland [Security] budget work amidst this surge of presentations at the border with flat funding,” Murphy said in early June. “There’s no way to adequately protect the homeland.”

Also on Thursday, the Appropriations Committee approved their 2024 defense appropriations draft, which includes $500 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation, as laid out in the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding, as well as $47.5 million for joint anti-tunnelling programs and $40 million for joint counter-drone programs.

The Labor, Health and Human Services and Education bill — also approved Thursday — includes a $1 million earmark for Tree of Life for providing elementary and secondary education curricula on antisemitism and a $250,000 earmark for the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, also for educational programing on antisemitism. Both allocations were requested by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

It also provides $237,000 for the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center in Cincinnati, OH to fund school district partnerships to counter antisemitism, requested by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Schumer requested and received $750,000 for the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg to provide assistance to low income individuals and families and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) received a $965,000 earmark for the Jewish Community Center on the Palisades to expand services for seniors.

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