DiSanto Seeks to Create Nonprofit Security Grant Program

Harrisburg—Senator John DiSanto (Dauphin/Perry) introduced an amendment today to House Bill 859, that was adopted unanimously by the Senate, to provide for a new nonprofit security grant fund to enhance safety for faith-based institutions and nonprofit organizations.

In offering the amendment DiSanto said, “As we mark the second anniversary this Sunday of the tragic and hateful act committed against the Tree of Life Synagogue, and when we have borne witness to the bomb threats made against the local Jewish Community Centers in Harrisburg and York, and when violent acts continue to be threatened and perpetrated in too many Pennsylvania communities, it is incumbent upon us to do more to ensure the safety and well-being of targeted groups.”

DiSanto continued, “Just as this General Assembly came together in a bipartisan manner to provide for unprecedented investments to better secure our schools, I propose we afford nonprofit organizations that are the fabric of our civil society additional safeguards.”

The nonprofit security grant program would receive a $5 million budget transfer of unexpended and unencumbered funds for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to make grant awards to any nonprofit that services individuals, groups, or institutions that are included within a bias motivation category for hate crime incidents identified by the FBI in its 2017 hate crime statistics publication.

The FBI defines hate crimes as those motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity. Eligible applicants will not only include all faith-based institutions, but also many other 501(c)3 public charities that serve the community.

The program would begin to accept applications on a rolling basis beginning no later than March 1, 2020 with the Commission required to approve or deny each application within 90 days. Grant awards will range from $5,000 to as high as $150,000—with larger grant amounts contingent upon the organization committing non-state matching funds.

Similar to the recently enacted Safe Schools Grant Program, nonprofits may utilize the grant dollars for a variety of security planning, equipment, and technology including, but not limited to, metal detectors, surveillance cameras, emergency communications equipment, electronic locksets, threat assessments, and building structure upgrades.

“We cannot undo past tragedies, but it is my hope that the creation of this program will send a message to our nonprofits and faith institutions that all of Pennsylvania stands with them against hatred and violence,” DiSanto said. “We must make it clear that no one can break our common resolve to advance the public good through our many charitable organizations across our great Commonwealth.”

The newly amended House Bill 859 is expected to receive final consideration in the Senate on Wednesday.

CONTACT: Chuck Erdman cerdman@pasen.gov (717) 787-6801