The ceiling of the main Rotunda inside Pennsylvania’s Capitol building. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).
Funding would double for a state program that provides grants for nonprofit organizations vulnerable to hate crimes, to tighten security around their buildings under legislation passed by a state House committee on Wednesday.
Launched in 2019, in the wake of a deadly synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh the year before, the Nonprofit Security Grant Fund has provided grants up to $150,000 for organizations that fall under one of the FBI’s bias-motivated hate crime categories, including crimes committed on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.
Bipartisan legislation passed in the House Appropriations Committee would make an additional $5 million available, for a total of $10 million. The grant money would be transferred from the state’s budget surplus. The program is administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) said Lt. Gov. Austin Davis has also agreed to extend the deadline for applications until the end of October.
“This is a good use of taxpayer dollars to make sure we protect our nonprofits who are facing tremendous amounts of discrimination right now,” Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), the ranking Republican member of the committee, said.
The October 2018 synagogue shooting claimed the lives of 11 people. The gunman, who posted antisemitic screeds on social media, was sentenced to death in August after a jury convicted him of 63 counts, including 11 counts of murder.
The program issued its first round of funding in 2020 and has issued three more since then. The grants totaled about $16 million and went to 488 organizations including synagogues, churches, mosques, religious schools, community centers and camps, and LGBTQ+ organizations, according to the PCCD.
Grants can be used for safety and security enhancements at facilities used by nonprofit organizations.
That can include:
- Safety and security planning and training;
- Purchase of safety and security equipment and technology;
- Upgrades to existing structures that enhance safety and security; and
- Vulnerability and threat assessments.
The legislation now heads to the full House for consideration.
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