California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 11 signed into law an Assembly bill establishing the California Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides grants for security guards and security enhancements at synagogues, schools, community centers and other institutions.
“I think he gets the sense of vulnerability people were feeling and the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens,” State Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino), author of the bill, AB-1548, told the Journal. “California has to stand up.”
Gabriel spoke with the Journal by phone following a press conference in Sacramento after the governor signed the bill.
To date, security grants for California nonprofits have been funded through the federal government, with a small portion of those funds supplemented by the state. The passage of the bill formalizes the state program, run under the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
“Many nonprofit institutions, including houses of worship and community centers, operate on extremely tight budgets and would be unable to fund needed security enhancements absent this new program,” Gabriel’s office said in a statement.
Gabriel, vice chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, said the program became a priority among the Jewish community following the shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018 and the April 2019 shooting six months later at the Chabad of Poway.
Days after the Poway shooting, Newsom’s office announced $15 million would be allocated to protect faith-based institutions as part of the 2019-2020 state budget.
Under the new program, nonprofits can apply for grants of up to $200,000, compared with the federal program, which only allowed up to $75,000.
“As a sponsor of AB 1548, the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California is grateful to Gov. Newsom for his leadership on the California Nonprofit Security Grant Program and his commitment to funding the program in his 2019 budget,” said Julie Zeisler, executive director of JPAC. “We thank Gov. Newsom for signing AB 1548 into law to codify the California Nonprofit Security Grant Program and ensure that nonprofits at risk of a hate crime have the security that they need to serve their communities.”
“I think Gov. Newsom gets the sense of vulnerability people were feeling and the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens.” — Jesse Gabriel
Gabriel, who began working on a statewide nonprofit security program years ago while serving on the board of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said, “We are very pleased with this outcome and grateful to the governor. He listened and understood the concerns of the community, the sense of vulnerability people feel.”
Gabriel added that passage of the bill reflected a joint effort by many in the Jewish community working toward the same cause.
“It is a nice example of Jewish institutions working together, reaching out to the legislature,” he said.
Under the new program, law enforcement will be involved in determining which organizations are eligible for a grant.
“The grant program created by this act will save lives by bolstering security at places of worship and other institutions facing hate-motivated violence,” the bill’s text says. “The increase in hate-motivated violence and the shocking increase in the number of hate groups have made improving security at nonprofit organizations an urgent priority that needs to begin as soon as possible.”