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Pennsylvania Commission Awards $5M to Help Houses of Worship Protect Against Hate Crimes

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The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency voted to approve grants ranging from $7,200 to $150,000 to 113 non-profit organizations in 26 counties.

The program is designed to prevent attacks such as the one that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 2018, where a gunman killed 11 worshipers in a rampage that federal prosecutors deemed a hate crime.

The commission, which administers Pennsylvania’s Nonprofit Security Grant Fund Program, received more than $27 million in grant requests for the inaugural round of funding, according to documents appended to its Wednesday meeting agenda.

According to a grant summary, the commission gave priority consideration to organizations whose members had been victims of hate crimes, or those that had received credible hate crime threats.

Non-profit organizations were invited in February to apply for up to $150,000 to fund security upgrades to their facilities, including equipment such as metal detectors and surveillance cameras or professional threat assessments and security training.

To qualify for the security grants, nonprofits must serve individuals who can be victims of bias-motivated hate crimes — a category that the FBI says includes acts motivated by someone’s race, gender, gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.

Commission records show that five non-profit organizations received the maximum award of $150,000. Those recipients included Jewish day camps and schools, community centers, and synagogues, as well as a Chester County school for students with disabilities.

The grant recipients also included a small number of Mosques and Islamic community centers. The Khair Community Center in Phoenixville, Chester County received a $90,000 award, and the Muslim Association of Lehigh Valley is slated to receive $74,000.

The commission also approved awards to healthcare providers and groups serving the LGBTQ community, including $35,080 to Planned Parenthood of Western PA and 54,000 to the Allies for Health & Wellbeing, an HIV/AIDS service organization in Pittsburgh.

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