US senators introduce bill to boost security funds for synagogues
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US senators introduce bill to boost security funds for synagogues

Bipartisan legislation would grant $75 million to religious, cultural centers to guard against potential terror attacks

Illustrative photo: Sheriff's crime scene tape is placed in front of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, after a shooting on April 27, 2019, in Poway, California. (Sandy Huffaker/AFP)
Illustrative photo: Sheriff's crime scene tape is placed in front of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, after a shooting on April 27, 2019, in Poway, California. (Sandy Huffaker/AFP)

Two senators have introduced bipartisan legislation to give funds to synagogues and other religious and cultural institutions to help provide additional security against potential terrorist attacks.

US Senators Rob Portman (Republican-Ohio) and Gary Peters (Democrat-Michigan) on Friday introduced Protecting Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations From Terrorism Act, or S. 1539, to authorize $75 million annually for fiscal years 2020-2024, for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

Of the $75 million total, $50 million would be available for nonprofits located within high-risk urban areas, and the remaining $25 million will be available for organizations that fall outside of those areas. Under the legislation, funding may be used for making the institution’s building more secure, training for personnel, and any other appropriate activity to increase security.

A letter initiated by Portman was sent earlier this month to the top Republican and Democratic senators on the Appropriations Committee, seeking a raise to $75 million from $60 million in security funding for religious institutions.

“Ensuring that synagogues, religious and cultural institutions, and nonprofit organizations have the resources and training they need to secure their facilities is one way Congress can help address this unnecessary violence that has tragically become more and more common,” Portman said in a statement.

“As I’ve said many times, there is no place for hatred or bigotry of any kind toward our fellow citizens. The threats and attacks we’ve seen across our country are attacks on our values and this bipartisan bill will help protect faith- and cultural-based institutions in Ohio and across our country.”

The proposal comes nearly seven months after 11 people were gunned down at a Pittsburgh synagogue, in the deadliest attack on Jews in US history, and three weeks after a synagogue shooting in Poway, California left a female congregant dead.

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