Washington Eyes Security of Faith Communities

Church security is on the minds of federal officials. Just last week the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the reinvigoration of a faith-based advisory group aimed at helping agents protect houses of worship and religious organizations. Appointees to the diverse 25-member council include Commissioner Kenneth Hodder of the Salvation Army and Rev. Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

These prominent faith and law enforcement leaders will help us build and strengthen the community partnerships that are so vital to our mission success,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

DHS hopes the council will help build trust between public officials and faith communities in order to facilitate better sharing of threat information, increased access to DHS resources, and improved prevention of and response to acts of targeted violence.

Meanwhile, the future of the Nonprofit Security Grant Program is being considered on Capitol Hill. Run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is housed in DHS, this program awards funds to houses of worship and other nonprofits looking to enhance security measures against terrorism. Grant recipients can use these resources for relevant facility improvements, as well as security contractors, training, and other activities.

Congress appropriated roughly $250 million to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program in 2022, and FEMA allowed applications for up to $150,000 per unique physical address. This was an increase from $180 million in 2021, $90 million in 2020, and less in years prior. However, Jewish Insider reports that only 52 percent of the 3,470 applications received by FEMA this year were approved. Now advocates in Washington, including Biden administration officials, are eyeing a $360 million funding level for 2023.

The Nonprofit Security Grant Program is a vital resource for faith-based communities across the country,” DHS Under Secretary Robert Silvers told Jewish Insider earlier this year. Our administration is strongly committed to growing this program, and will work with Congress to achieve our goal of $360 million in annual funding.”

Churches and ministries interested in exploring the Nonprofit Security Grant Program should begin preparations now. At the very least, organizations will need to ensure they have Unique Entity Identifier (DUNS numbers do not suffice), a clear mission statement, a vulnerability assessment, and an investment justification for their particular address.

Application windows can come and go quickly, and FEMAs guide encourages groups to make contact with state-level agencies that serve as the grant’s pass-through entities. These agencies have discretion over the rules and deadlines of the application process in their own jurisdictions. New York, for example, requires prequalification in its grant management system and recommends nonprofits get started now, as there are several steps that can be completed prior to the application period.”

ECFA will continue to monitor this federal attention to faith community security.

 


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.

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