Federal grants to beef up non-profit institutions deemed to be soft-targets for terror attacks are expected to increase 30 percent this year to $13 million, according to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
New York’s junior Democrat said the Omnibus appropriations bill, which Congress passed late Wednesday afternoon after a weekend of debate, includes “at least $13 million for the UASI non-profit program.”
The Urban Areas Security Initiative, administered by the Department of Homeland Security annually accepts grant applications from institutions who 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 of a $10 million pool. Most of the funds were allocated in New York.
The program, which has existed since the mid-2000s, has so far disbursed $138 million through the Department of Homeland Security, not counting the $13 million in new funding. Of that amount, $110 million has gone to Jewish institutions seeking funding for add-ons like barriers and security cameras.
In a statement sent to the Jewish Week, Gillibrand said she would continue to press Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to protect New York’s share of the funds.
“New York’s religious institutions and non-profit organizations are the backbone of our communities,” she said. “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 non-profits get their fair share of federal resources to guard us from attacks and keep us safe.”
The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York annually coaches local institutions on the application process, and 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 David Pollock, associate executive director of the JCRC.
On its security blog, the JCRC said pitfalls could still remain for the funding.
“Since September 11, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” William Daroff, the JFNA’s Washington director, said in a statement. “Until nonprofit institutions are secure from such threats, The Jewish Federations will continue to strongly support the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.”
In a separate statement, the Orthodox Union praised lawmakers who champion the funding, chief among them Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
The Reform movement generally abjures the funding because of concerns about church-state separation.
The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed this week breaks a years-long budget impasse between the Republican-majority U.S. House of Representatives and the Democratic-majority Senate. It also includes $3.1 billion in assistance for Israel.
JTA contributed to this report.