(JNS) Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced during a press conference on Wednesday in Midtown Manhattan that he is proposing to double the funding of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program from $180 million to $360 million.
The announcement comes a week after Jewish communal organizations called for the grant’s increase following a rabbi and worshippers being held hostage at gunpoint during a Jan. 15 Shabbat services in Colleyville, Texas.
Joining Schumer at the announcement were numerous faith leaders, including representatives from the Orthodox Union, which was one of the groups calling for the grant to increase.
“We did not imagine living through a nightmare in the United States of not one, not two, but three synagogues being the sites of domestic terrorist attacks, and that’s what we’ve now lived through,” Nathan Diament, OU executive director of public policy, said during the press conference. “In my 25 years of working in advocacy for the synagogue community, I didn’t imagine that I would turn on my phone after Shabbat and the first call I would get would be from the Secretary of Homeland Security telling me about another synagogue terrorist incident.”
The additional funding would be included in an omnibus spending package being put together by appropriators in Congress ahead of the February expiration date of the government’s current Continuing Resolution.
Since its creation in 2005, the grant’s funding had been steadily increased. However, in light of recent attacks on religious centers, supporters believe that more funding is needed due to the fact that despite the 2021 fiscal year’s funding of the program at $180 million—the largest-ever amount so far—more than half of the grant applicants were denied.
The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It provides grants of up to $150,000 to synagogues, other houses of worship, communal centers, Jewish day schools and other nonprofits at risk of attack. The money may be used for building security improvements, and for the training and hiring of security guards.
“We will not stand idle as our community is preyed upon yet again,” OU president Mark Bane said in a news release. “We at the Orthodox Union are working to do all that we can to keep the Jewish community and other faith communities safe at all times, and especially in their houses of worship.”
Schumer himself called for the program’s funding to reach $360 million two years ago, though he was not the majority leader at the time.