State To Scrutinize Anti-Terror Funding For Nonprofits

State To Scrutinize Anti-Terror Funding For Nonprofits

New regulations will complicate application process for $13 million federal pool.

As local nonprofits gear up to vie for $13 million in federal security funding, some will face an additional pile of paperwork when they are asked to prequalify under regulations imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year.

The measure will not affect organizations that received funding last year and are seeking additional grants. But new applicants must go through the state’s unified master contract process.

“In effect, they have to apply to apply,” said David Pollock, associate executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, which offers guidance on the application process.

“Some organizations may not have the resources for it.”

He noted that while social service organizations that receive city and state funds, such as those under UJA-Federation of New York’s umbrella, are already accustomed to providing data for approval processes, smaller yeshivas and synagogues may not have the wherewithal to comply.

The new regulations, developed over 18 months by Cuomo in cooperation with nonprofit groups, were announced last August and intended to ensure that prospective grantees have both the ability to deliver the services promised and proper fiscal oversight.

Ron Soloway, UJA-Federation’s managing director for government affairs, noted that the strictures will serve nonprofits well not only by protecting tax dollars from fraud or waste but also helping them get paid faster, since they only have to qualify once.

“The [information] in the approval process, such who are your board of directors, are things that in his day and age nonprofits are going to need to have to be eligible for funding,” Soloway said.

“We have to work with agencies that might not have the capacity to help them comply with what we believe are solid accountability principles.”

The spending bill authorized by Congress last week includes a 30 percent increase for the Urban Areas Security Initiative, administered by the Department of Homeland Security, over last year’s $10 million. DHS annually accepts grant applications from institutions that can demonstrate that they may be vulnerable to attack.

The majority of funding has gone to Jewish institutions. Last year, that meant $9.7 million. Institutions in New York state generally get most of the money, including 36 percent last year, or $3.4 million, an increase from 21 percent the first year grants were offered in 2007.

The overall funding pool has fluctuated, from $15 million the first year to a high of $19 million in 2010 and 2011. Last year was the lowest sum, a result of the sequester of government spending.

The security grants program, initiated in 2004, has so far disbursed $138 million through the Department of Homeland Security, excluding this year’s $13 million.

Of that amount, a total of $110 million has gone to Jewish institutions seeking funding for add-ons like barriers and security cameras. Each grant is for a maximum of $75,000. Institutions that received funds in 2013 included synagogues such as the Bay Terrace Jewish Center in Queens; services such as Hatzolah volunteer ambulance of Williamsburg, Brooklyn; yeshivas such as the Jewish Foundation School on Staten Island and community centers such as the Greater Five Towns YM & YWHA.

New York’s senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, have fought hard to protect and increase New York’s share of the funding.

“New York’s religious institutions and nonprofit organizations are the backbone of our communities,” said Gillibrand in a statement to The Jewish Week. “No New Yorker, or American, should ever have to live or worship in fear of being targeted because of who they are or what they believe. I will continue to fight to ensure that our city nonprofits get their fair share of federal resources to guard us from attacks and keep us safe.”

On its security blog, the JCRC warns that New York state’s Department of Homeland Security, which screens applications for the feds, will not consider applications that are not pre-approved through the master grants process.

Applicants must then submit a vulnerability assessment and investment justification, as in previous years. In all, there are now five steps in the process. The JCRC is planning a seminar, as yet unscheduled, on the pre-qualification process.

In addition to the JCRC and UJA-Federation, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America have led advocacy efforts for continuing the funding.

“The most important change this year is that we don’t know the timing for potential applications to go through the New York state application process,” said Pollock. He said the deadline for applications has yet to be announced because President Barack Obama has yet to sign the spending bill. It could be another 60 days after that before the deadline is set, he said.

JTA contributed to this report.

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