Protecting Nonprofits from Terrorism

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Ohio Moves to Protect Nonprofits from Terrorism

Over $7 million to be made available with passage of "target hardening" grant program that makes State a national leader

Last week, the Ohio Legislature passed a nonprofit security grant program to help nonprofits at risk of terrorist attack to upgrade & secure their facilities by providing grants of up to $100,000. The total funds available are approximately $7.3 million.

Senate President Keith Faber, after learning from Ohio Jewish Communities the vulnerabilities of nonprofit agencies, including schools, synagogues, and community centers, led an effort to secure funding.

Together with the House, led by Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, they located unspent funds in the state budget that could be used for this purpose and together with the Kasich administration and Budget Director Tim Keen crafted a program that would help nonprofits become more secure.

“Acts of terrorism unfortunately continue to threaten the security of Ohio citizens in what should be places of peace and safety,” President Faber said. “Helping our nonprofit organizations equip themselves to deal with this reality is important. Preparation saves lives."

"We live in uncertain times, and as a state and nation we must always be looking for ways to keep our fellow citizens safe from terror attacks,” Speaker Rosenberger said. “These grants will provide greater security and peace of mind for nonprofits, making it easier for them to continue their tremendous service on behalf of the people of Ohio."

Even before the recent attack at OSU, FBI figures showcase Ohio is a central front in the domestic war on terror, with Columbus being one of a handful of cities to have two Joint Terrorism Task Force squads. Last year, two Ohio Jewish day schools were the target of bomb threats and numerous instances of suspicious activity have been logged and investigated at Jewish sites across the state. Several Ohioans have been arrested and/or convicted on charges of plotting terror attacks and aiding ISIS. Jewish institutions have particularly seen increased threats. "In the past year alone here in Columbus, we have had a bomb threat at a preschool and day school, an attack at a restaurant owned by an Israeli and now the terror attack on the campus of OSU. Our Jewish institutions in are vulnerable. I'm deeply appreciative that our state government is stepping forward to help us and others ensure that our constituents are safe," stated Gordon Hecker, President & CEO, Jewish Federation of Columbus.

The nonprofit sector has not been complacent, and has been ramping up their own efforts too.

“We believe there are increasing threats based on information we received from the Department of Homeland Security over the last few years. In that time, we have gone from spending zero dollars to nearly one million dollars for annual community security. We are spending additional large sums to upgrade physical security aspects of our community agencies and schools. We have also conducted serious training exercises with the entire community base. We believe we will have to spend even more annually in the upcoming years. We will have to make more security related technology upgrades and physical improvements to our community facilities,” noted Stephen H. Hoffman, President, Jewish Federation of Cleveland

"Ohioans will be safer because of this action. Too often nonprofits lack the funds needed for basic safety," said Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities.

The new state program is modeled after a federal security grant program for nonprofits. Last year, due to advocacy by Ohio's congressional delegation led by Senator Rob Portman and Senator Sherrod Brown, Cleveland area institutions received over $200,000 in grants. Still, the program, while incredibly successful, has been woefully underfunded and most Ohio cities have never been eligible for it at all and even those once eligible have often found in recent years that their metropolitan area is ineligible. This leaves nonprofits statewide in dire need of security upgrades.

"As threats both morph and increase, the time to act is now. From Governor Kasich on down to OEMA Director Merick and our federal, state, and local law enforcement, we know everyone is doing all they can to stop attacks and keep us safe. But unfortunately we need to be ready. President Faber, Speaker Rosenberger, & Governor Kasich recognized this desperate need and acted quickly," added Beigelman.

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