uphill bill

Congress to cut security grant funding, ban UNRWA funds and add Palestinian aid restrictions

The bill slashes more than $30 million from a program protecting synagogues and nonprofits despite skyrocketing antisemitism in the United States

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) listen during remarks at a Capitol Menorah lighting ceremony at the U.S. Capitol Building on December 12, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

The final package of U.S. government funding bills for the balance of the 2024 fiscal year is set to cut funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program by $30.5 million, despite skyrocketing incidents of antisemitism. It also bars funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and imposes a raft of new restrictions and oversight provisions on other U.S. aid to Gaza.

The House and Senate released the bill on Thursday, nearly six months into the 2024 fiscal year, after months of delays. Facing a Friday shutdown deadline, lawmakers are expected to pass the bill in the coming days. 

The NSGP funding cut will further restrict the already under-resourced program, which provides grants for religious institutions and nonprofits to improve their security. In 2023, when $305 million in funding was available, just 42% of NSGP requests were fulfilled, down from the previous year; application volume is likely to increase this year.

Jewish community groups had hoped to secure $500 million for NSGP in the 2024 funding bill, and an additional increase in the Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan emergency aid bill. Key lawmakers had pledged to seek increased funding, even before Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks.

The final allocation of $274.5 million comes in $85.5 million below the administration’s request, $60.5 million below the House-passed funding level and $12.2 million below the Senate’s proposed funding allocation.

In the Department of Homeland Security subsection of the bill, which funds the NSGP, lawmakers provided additional funding for immigration enforcement, but cut many (although not all) DHS grant programs. DHS funding remained a contentious issue until the final days of negotiations.

Jewish groups say they are now focusing on ensuring that additional NSGP funding remains in the national security supplemental bill, and on finding a path to pass that long-gestating bill.

The 2024 funding bill also bans any support — including that which was appropriated in previous years and is currently on hold — to UNRWA until at least March 2025.

UNRWA funding was a particular sticking point in the final stages of negotiations, as some key Democrats fought to preserve funding for the U.N. agency, arguing that it’s the only body currently capable of effectively supporting Palestinians throughout the region. But Republicans, who called UNRWA funding a nonstarter, ultimately won out.

The bill provides $175 million in non-UNRWA aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, a significant cut from 2023. It introduces new oversight provisions for aid to Gaza similar to those included in the Senate-passed supplemental aid bill, requiring new accountability mechanisms to prevent the diversion of aid, cooperation with Israel, regular reporting to Congress, specific notifications to Congress if aid is diverted and funding for third-party monitoring.

The bill includes the full $3.8 billion in military aid for Israel guaranteed under the U.S.-Israel memorandum of understanding, including $500 million for cooperative missile-defense programs and $3.3 billion in military funding, plus $40 million for joint counter-drone programs (including directed energy systems), a $15 million boost, and $47.5 million for counter-tunneling cooperation.

The spending package cuts off funding to the United Nations Human Rights Council unless the administration is able to certify that the council “is taking significant steps to remove Israel as a permanent agenda item” and reform the membership election process, which has allowed flagrant human rights abusers to sit on the council. The administration would have to provide a “detailed reform agenda” and a specific timeline for accomplishing these goals.

 It also bans funding for the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Israel.

The bill stops short of House Republicans’ original efforts to cut funding for the U.N.’s general budget entirely, but does request a report on efforts to combat antisemitism at the global body.

The legislation provides $1.75 million for the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism at the State Department, a modest increase of $250,000 which comes in below the House’s proposed $2.5 million and the Senate’s proposed $2 million.

It also bars the administration from moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel out of Jerusalem, and it prohibits removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. 

The legislation  contains language prohibiting implementation of any Iran nuclear deal, including re-entry into the 2016 deal, without compliance with congressional review legislation, and requires reports to Congress on U.S. sanctions on Iran. House Republicans had initially sought to force the administration to submit any nuclear deal with Iran to Congress as a treaty, but that provision has been dropped.

It requires new, regular reports to Congress about the Office of Palestinian Affairs’ spending on public diplomacy programs. Republicans initially sought to bring that office under the control of the U.S. ambassador to Israel, and limit its authorities.

It holds funding for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program level at $8.5 million, and includes $50 million for the Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, $3 million for joint U.S.-Israel development programs and $117,000 in scholarships for Israeli Arabs to study in the U.S. 

The bill provides $3.3 billion in military financing for Egypt — $320 million of that conditioned on progress on human rights — and $1.65 billion in budget support and military aid for Jordan.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who has frequently led pushes in the House for increased NSGP funding, called the NSGP allocation “deeply disappointing” but said that “we should not give up hope,” pointing to the Senate-passed aid bill and calling for a House vote.

Jewish groups expressed disappointment with the cut to NSGP funding, and re-emphasized the need to include additional NSGP aid in the emergency supplemental bill. Passage of that bill remains uncertain.

“It is terribly disappointing that in a time of surging antisemitism, Congress is cutting funding for the Nonprofit Security Grants that help keep synagogues and other Jewish sites safe — by $30 million,” Nathan Diament, the executive director of public policy for the Orthodox Union, said in a statement. “OU Advocacy will press to fix this in the Supplemental, which Congress must pass.”

Diament told JI that one leadership office has said it intends to ensure the NSGP “is made whole, and then some” in the supplemental bill. He also praised the funding for Israel and the UNRWA ban.

“It is unacceptable that as threats to our communities increase, Congress is decreasing potentially lifesaving funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “With an unprecedented spike in antisemitism and threats to Jewish institutions in the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, it’s disheartening to see Congress fail to even maintain the status quo.” 

Greenblatt did, however, praise the funding boost for the antisemitism office.

Karen Paikin Barall, the vice president of government relations at the Jewish Federations of North America, thanked congressional supporters for “shielding [NSGP] from further proposed cuts in a difficult fiscal environment.”

“At this moment, the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which protects houses of worship, is more important than ever, which is why Jewish Federations are disappointed to see funds cut,” Barall said. “These cuts make passage of the supplemental NSGP funding passed with strong bipartisan support in the Senate all the more critical.”

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.