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Community leaders, legislators call for state to release millions in funding for nonprofit security

Millions of dollars in state aid for nonprofits to improve their security has been earmarked, but people like Michael Bloom are just waiting for the money to be released.

“There are hundreds of millions sitting waiting to get released [for various projects],” said Bloom, executive director of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut.

He lobbied alongside Muslim leaders to institute the grant program, which was inspired by a similar program at the federal level. “It could take one month; it could take a year," Bloom said. “There are some projects that have been waiting to be released for several years. I think it’s just competing interests.”

The State Bond Commission, under the authority of Gov. Ned Lamont, has yet to release millions of dollars in security grants for nonprofits in Connecticut. Any nonprofit that can demonstrate a reasonable security risk is eligible to apply.

Once the application process was underway, Bloom said it quickly became clear that the original $5 million allocated would not be nearly enough to fund all applicants’ projects.

“There were well over $13 million in asks, so the need is real, and not just in the Jewish community -- across every faith, every corner of Connecticut,” Bloom said.

They continued lobbying, and a further $15 million was approved by the state legislature for fiscal years 2021-2023. But the money has yet to be released by the bond commission.

Days after the Texas hostage situation at a synagogue last month, state Sens. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) and Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) issued a joint statement calling for swift approval of funding for nonprofit security.

“As we go forward, it’s critically important that this program continues, the second round of security grants for houses of worship moves ahead as swiftly as possible and we maintain support in future bonding agendas," they wrote.

Bloom said in January that he believes the Texas incident could help impress upon the bond commission the importance of implementing the program faster. He pointed to a fire at a New Haven synagogue in 2019 that he said may have helped his cause back when he was first lobbying for the grant program.

But the bond commission canceled its January meeting, which is only the first step in getting the money to the nonprofits. Once the bond commission approves the funds, the state will start the application process over again; organizations that were denied the first time can be reconsidered, as well as organizations that did not apply previously. All in all, it may take many more months for nonprofits to actually receive the money, Bloom said.

Representatives from the bond commission did not respond to our request for comment. The governor’s office responded with the following statement:

“The Lamont Administration has been committed since day one to fighting hate, bigotry, and anti-semitism, and to that end we have provided critical tools to non-profits, especially houses of worship, to help them with their security needs.”

The governor’s office did not respond to questions about when those tools would be delivered to the nonprofits.

The bond commission is scheduled to meet again on Feb. 25.

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