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Senator Gillibrand urges Congress to provide houses of worship with enough funding to protect themselves from terrorism

STAFF REPORTS



WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called on leaders of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to provide $60 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) in the upcoming fiscal year. Currently, the Senate has only allocated $35 million for this national security initiative, which is critical to providing at-risk religious and nonprofit organizations with the funding they need to protect their facilities and keep people safe from terrorist attacks. The House Committee on Appropriations has already approved $60 million for this program in the upcoming fiscal year. Gillibrand is urging Appropriators to come together and fund this program at the higher House-approved funding level.

“It is unacceptable that while hate crimes and anti-Semitism are clearly on the rise in New York and all over the country, Congress has yet to provide security funding that at-risk houses of worship and nonprofits need to stay safe. It would be a dangerous abdication of Congress’s responsibility to protect the American people if we do not fully fund this urgently needed and vitally important program,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Our religious institutions and nonprofits urgently need more federal funding to protect themselves against violent hate crimes like the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. We must do everything in our power to prevent another heinous, anti-Semitic attack from happening again. We all have a role to play in the fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, and I urge my colleagues to join me in calling on Congress to fund this program at the highest possible level.”

Gillibrand has been a strong supporter of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program as well as the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), which helps New York City prevent and respond to acts of terrorism. In March 2017, Gillibrand led a bipartisan push with 18 Senate colleagues calling for a funding increase for the National Security Grant Program, and in September 2017, Gillibrand announced New York would receive more than $263 million in federal funding for anti-terrorism programs through UASI.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) promotes emergency preparedness coordination between public and private community partners and enhances physical security capabilities so that at-risk nonprofits are able to harden, plan, and ready themselves against a terrorist attack. Synagogues, churches, mosques, and Jewish Community Centers are just a few examples of nonprofit organizations that could apply for these funds.

Gillibrand’s letter may be found here and below:

October 30, 2018

Dear Chairmen Shelby and Frelinghuysen and Ranking Members Leahy and Lowey,

I write in regard to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), an important homeland security initiative that helps make our nation more secure and resilient by providing at-risk religious and nonprofit organizations with funding support for target hardening and other physical enhancements. On October 27, 2018, a gunman opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, at least the third mass shooting event in a house of worship in three years and an event the Anti-Defamation League described as, “the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.” Considering the increase in violent attacks and perceived credible threats against religious and cultural communities, it is unacceptable that the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations has only approved $35 million for NSGP funding in the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) Appropriations bill. Therefore, as you finalize the FY19 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, I request full funding for the NSGP at $60 million, the amount approved by the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations for FY19 and the amount appropriated in Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18).

Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) promotes emergency preparedness coordination between public and private community partners and enhances physical security capabilities so that at-risk nonprofits are able to harden, plan, and ready themselves against a terrorist attack. The NSGP helps keep the public safe by supporting the DHS National Preparedness Goal efforts to build and sustain core capabilities across the Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, Response, and Recovery mission areas. 

Americans continue to suffer through the harmful and violent consequences of hate, and nonprofit religious organizations such as churches, temples, mosques, and other religious centers are especially at-risk. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, hate crimes reported to police in America’s ten largest cities in 2017 rose 12.5 percent over the previous year. The increase was the fourth consecutive annual rise in a row and the highest total in over a decade. Broken down by categories, the most common type of faith-based hate crime in the nation’s ten largest cities in 2017 was anti-Semitic. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix, San Diego, San Jose and Denver listed anti-Jewish incidents among the five most frequent bias crimes they reported in 2017. In New York City, for example, about 60 percent of hate crimes reported in 2017 targeted religion, and the most frequent targets were Jews. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 were nearly 60% higher than the previous year. Against this backdrop of hate-filled threats and attacks on Americans, DHS has warned the public about increased homeland security threats. DHS’s September 2019 National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletin claimed that the U.S. is facing “one of the most challenging threat environments since 9/11, as foreign terrorist organizations exploit the Internet to inspire, enable, or direct individuals already here in the Homeland to commit terrorist acts.” These terrorist acts include attacks against perceived “soft targets,” like religious and cultural community centers, that have limited security measures in place, making them vulnerable to attack.

Americans are coping with too many tragic examples of religious and culturally motivated threats and attacks. Congress must act to protect national security and the principles of religious freedom upon which our country was founded. The modern homeland security environment is evolving quickly, and our response must be swift and proportional. At a time when credible threats against religious and cultural institutions are increasing, so too must the attention and resources we pay to them. Therefore, I respectfully urge you to provide full funding for the NSGP at $60 million in the final FY19 Homeland Security Appropriations bill. I am appreciative of the funding NSGP has already received, and I look forward to working with you to continue to support this program’s important mission.

Thank you for your consideration of this request,

Kirsten Gillibrand
United States Senator