Legislation to increase security at New Jersey nonprofit organizations determined to be at an elevated risk for attacks gained General Assembly approval on Thursday.
The bill (A-4253), sponsored by Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Raj Mukherji, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Patricia Egan Jones and John McKeon, would establish the “Nonprofit Security Grant Pilot Program,” would provide $1 million annually for three years to help secure eligible nonprofit organizations deemed high-risk targets. Approved organizations may receive up to $10,000 each per year.
The sponsors developed the legislation through meetings with various nonprofit organizations, including synagogues and mosques, that are concerned for the security of their members.
“As I discussed this issue with different nonprofits within and outside of my district, I began to see that members of these communities have a legitimate concern regarding their safety,” said Quijano (D-Union). “As chair of the Assembly Homeland Security and Preparedness Committee, I believe we have an obligation to ensure that they have personnel on-site who can prevent and protect New Jersey residents from acts of targeted violence.”
“If an organization believes that it’s in danger, it should receive the necessary resources to protect its people and property,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “This pilot program will be a boon for public safety in New Jersey.”
“New Jersey must take very seriously its responsibility to improve its readiness in protecting against terrorism,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Providing funding to secure at-risk nonprofits will advance emergency preparedness in our state.”
“Concerns about local hate crimes as well as global terrorism require our state and our nation to be prepared at all times,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “We live in a dangerous world. New Jersey must take every step possible to protect its residents, particularly when they are at high risk for attack.”
“Residents of New Jersey should never fear for their lives while exercising their right to worship or learn or congregate with members of their community,” said Jones (Camden/Gloucester). “Adequate annual funding for nonprofit security is about not only keeping our residents safe but also preserving freedoms central to the American way of life.”
“The recent threats against facilities like the JCC MetroWest in West Orange and hate crimes like the recent shootings of Indian-Americans in Kansas are disheartening reminders that there are those who target certain people and places to act on and spread bigotry,” said McKeon (D-Morris/Essex). “Our solidarity with at-risk communities cannot consist only of one-time grants. Unfortunately, this variety of hatred is an on-going problem that demands an on-going response.”
While a similar federal program was open only to Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Union, Somerset and Sussex counties for Fiscal Year 2016, the pilot program outlined in the bill would be open to all 21 counties.
Under the legislation, an organization may receive a “high-risk” designation if it meets criteria already used by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness for the appropriation of funds under the federal Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Any non-profit organization located in New Jersey that has received or is eligible to receive funds from the federal UASI Nonprofit Security Grant Program would be able to apply for this separate grant.
The federal UASI Nonprofit Security Grant Program provides funding for target hardening and physical security enhancement, such as video-security systems, alarm systems, cyber-security systems and physical aspects of properties of nonprofit organizations deemed high-risk targets. While these grant funds may be used for specific training of security personnel, they are explicitly prohibited from funding permanent or temporary security personnel. This bill would provide grants to eligible organizations to hire security personnel.
The measure, which the Assembly approved 61-10-3, now awaits further Senate consideration.