Heinrich Urges Increased Funding To Protect Places Of Worship, Community Centers

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined a bipartisan group of Senators in pressing for robust community safety funding in any FY19 appropriations package. Specifically, the Senators have called for a minimum of $50 million for the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) and $10 million for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Nonprofit Security Grant program which helps nonprofit organizations like religious institutions, schools, and community centers make security improvements. This follows the mass shooting last month at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, the third mass shooting event in a house of worship in three years and the deadliest attack on the American Jewish community in our country’s history.

“We regret that nonprofit organizations – especially religious institutions, schools, and community centers – have become targets for violent attacks and believe we have a responsibility to address the motivating factors behind these threats,” wrote the Senators. “But as long as the threat remains, we must take steps to ensure these facilities have the necessary resources to improve their security if they wish to do so. While we recognize much more remains to be done beyond investing in security, we urge your strong support for robust funding of the Nonprofit Security Grant program in the FY19 appropriations cycle and stand ready to work with you on this issue.”

Senator Heinrich has been a strong advocate of improving funding and resources for faith-based community centers and has led efforts to combat anti-Semitism at home and abroad.

A copy of the letter is available here and below. More on the DHS Nonprofit Security Grant program is available here.

November 28, 2018

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

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 the deadliest attack on the American Jewish community in our country’s history. Eleven congregants lost their lives in a holy space, a place that should have been safe for worship and celebration. Even as our nation continues to grieve, we recognize that this attack was part of a broader pattern of violence motivated by hate.

The Department of Homeland Security’s September 2018 National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletin described “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, which have limited security measures in place, making them vulnerable to attack.

We regret that nonprofit organizations – especially religious institutions, schools, and community centers – have become targets for violent attacks and believe we have a responsibility to address the motivating factors behind these threats. But as long as the threat remains, we must take steps to ensure these facilities have the necessary resources to improve their security if they wish to do so. Many of our offices have seen increased interest in the DHS Nonprofit Security Grant program in the wake of the Pittsburgh attack, and we write today to encourage you to ensure these grants are robustly funded in any FY19 appropriations package.

Your leadership ensured that in FY18, nonprofits in the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) regions could compete for $50 million in funding nationwide. You also helped secure $10 million for nonprofits which did not qualify for UASI funding, but which also face security threats. We ask that as you negotiate towards a final appropriation for FY19, you consider the increased demand for these resources in today’s environment. We support, at a minimum, funding at the House-appropriated levels of $50 million through UASI and $10 million through the State Homeland Security Grant program.

We have also heard from some nonprofit organizations that are seeking to make security improvements as quickly as possible. Since FEMA cannot begin the allocation process without a full year appropriation, we urge you to ensure that, should a Continuing Resolution be necessary, you include appropriation of these funds in that package.

Security improvements such as those funded by the DHS Nonprofit Security Grant program are an important step towards supporting communities and congregations profoundly shaken by the events in Pittsburgh, Charleston, and Sutherland Springs, Texas, among others, over the past several years. While we recognize much more remains to be done beyond investing in security, we urge your strong support for robust funding of the Nonprofit Security Grant program in the FY19 appropriations cycle and stand ready to work with you on this issue.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,