WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee today approved two amendments offered by U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Authorization Act to help protect Jewish Community Centers and other nonprofit institutions around the country.  Portman authored the amendments with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI).

“I want to thank my colleagues for supporting these common-sense proposals designed to help protect Jewish Community Centers and other nonprofit institutions,” said Senator Portman.  “Currently, FEMA will only provide security grants to nonprofit institutions that fall within Urban Area Security Initiative metropolitan areas, but as we’ve seen in recent years, the threats to many houses of worship and other religious community sites are much more geographically dispersed than just those particular cities.  In Ohio, only nonprofits in the Cleveland area are able to receive this funding currently, and my amendment would allow nonprofits outside of Cleveland to access this funding and strengthen their security.  It also ensures that nonprofit institutions have a seat at the table at Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshops.  These are important forums for all regional stakeholders, and I know nonprofit organizations in Ohio have benefitted greatly from similar experiences in the past. I look forward to the Senate taking swift action to pass the DHS Authorization Act with these bipartisan proposals.”

“Ohio’s nonprofits that are most vulnerable and at risk of terror attacks are profoundly grateful for Senator Portman’s leadership here,” said Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities.  “Ensuring this clarifying language in the bill will keep this vital program open to as many potential institutions as possible.  Our Jewish community remains a target of choice of so many terrorists and hate groups, with an unabating spike in violence and threats across the state and nationwide.  These amendments will help save lives and keep people safe.” 

“The Jewish Federations of North America commends Senators Portman and Peters for their leadership today on behalf of nonprofit security. "Since September 11, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” said William Daroff, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington Office of the Jewish Federations of North America. “The Portman-Peters amendments will reinforce critical engagement of law enforcement, homeland security and community organizations working together on the safety and security of at-risk communal institutions, and provide for greater access to resources to the nonprofit sector that help supplement the work of local and federal law enforcement to keep our communities safe.”

NOTE: Portman has helped lead efforts in the Senate to protect religious community sites such as Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), Jewish Day Schools, and Synagogues in Ohio and across the country that have been the subject of anonymous bomb threats, vandalism, and other threats. Portman condemned these attacks in the strongest possible terms and visited a Jewish Community Center in Columbus to highlight his support for the Jewish community.  In 2017, he led a bipartisan letter with all of his colleagues to the Homeland Security Secretary, Attorney General, and the FBI Director urging them to take swift action. Portman later commended the FBI and law enforcement authorities for working diligently to identify and arrest a suspect in the case.

The two Portman amendments strengthening protections for nonprofit institutions passed by the committee today:

  • Require at least 30 percent of the funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to be distributed to nonprofit institutions in non-Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) metropolitan areas.  UASI funds help a set number of high-threat, high-density Urban Areas in efforts to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism. This amendment would ensure that funds for nonprofit security is not limited to just those cities.  In Ohio, only nonprofits in the Cleveland area are able to receive this funding currently, and this amendment would allow nonprofits outside of Cleveland to access this funding. 
  • Ensures that nonprofit institutions like Jewish Community Centers have a seat at the table at Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshops.

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