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Schumer launches ‘major push’ to double funding for security grants in wake of Texas synagogue attack

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced a “major push” to double funding for grants to enhance security at nonprofit organizations following the hostage-taking at a Texas synagogue earlier this month.

“Our religious spaces — our churches, synagogues, mosques or temples — should be places of peace, not places of fear, not places of worry, and certainly not targets of attacks,” Schumer said in a news conference, flanked by Jewish and religious leaders, in Midtown Manhattan on Wednesday.

Through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, established by Congress in 2005, the federal government offers nonprofit organizations, including houses of worship and other religious institutions, financial support to help protect themselves from attacks. Congress increased the appropriation from $60 million in 2018 to $180 million in 2021. In the now-stalled Build Back Better Act, which the House passed in November, Jewish groups secured an additional $100 million in funding for the program.

In a letter sent to President Biden on Monday, major Jewish groups urged the president to work with Congress to include a further increase in this year’s spending bill and to ensure that it is part of his request for Fiscal Year 2023.

Though Jews are less than two percent of the U.S. population, they are the targets of 60% of the faith-related hate crimes, according to FBI statistics. Recent data from the Anti-Defamation League showed that 327 antisemitic incidents at Jewish institutions were reported in 2020, an increase of 40% from the 234 incidents in 2019.

Schumer previously pledged to increase funding to $360 million following a number of violent antisemitic attacks in New York and New Jersey in 2019. “Because of the rash of incidents and threats against religious institutions and houses of worship, we are now asking again to double it from $180 million to $360 million,” the Senate leader said Wednesday.

Schumer said he has already spoken to Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who heads the subcommittee that allocates funds for the program, ahead of the next government funding deadline in mid-February. He called Murphy “very sympathetic.”

“I am committed to using my clout as majority leader to get the increase that we are asking for,” Schumer said.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary for homeland security, has publicly expressed support for increased funding.

“We will be working intensively with Congress to ensure we can increase funding so that our faith-based communities have what they need to upgrade their security and protect themselves against terrorism, hate crimes, and targeted violence,” Mayorkas told reporters. “Increasing this funding is a foundational step to reinforcing and fortifying pillars of our community, places that should always remain houses of worship, prayer, gathering, and peace.”

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