After a year of intensive and persistent advocacy by JUF professionals, volunteers and agency professionals, many of JUF's top funding and policy priorities were included in the $1.3 trillion spending bill , which passed Congress and was signed by President Trump this week to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. Several of these priorities have been the focus of JUF's federal advocacy efforts since last year's Washington DC Advocacy Mission and are big wins for our community.
"While work remains on many important issues, the inclusion of several of our key priorities in this funding package is a testament to the work we've done over the past year, beginning with our Washington Mission last March and continued through the ongoing advocacy efforts of our professional staff and volunteer leadership" said David Golder, JUF Government Affairs Committee chair.
"From increased support for the Non-profit Security Grant Program and Holocaust survivors services to additional funding for Israel's missile defense program, these decisions made in Washington have a big impact on our community and our priorities around the world," he said. "It is, therefore, so important that we continue to have a seat at the table to advocate for these issues and keep policymakers informed of all the work that we do both locally and abroad."
Funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program was increased from $25 million in Fiscal 2017 to $60 million in Fiscal 2018, ensuring that nonprofit and Jewish communal institutions within the JUF system and around the country can take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety and security. Additionally, funding for the Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program was doubled to $5 million, and funding for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program was maintained at $120 million.
The funding package also adds $3.3 billion to address the opioid and mental health crisis in Fiscal 2018. This includes $1 billion for a new State Opioid Response Grant program, a $160 million increase in the Mental Health Block Grant, and a $350 million increase to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for opioid overdose prevention, surveillance, and improving state prescription drug monitoring programs.
It's also important to note that bill did not weaken or eliminate the Johnson amendment, which prohibits charities from participating in political campaigns for public office.
On the foreign policy front, the Taylor Force Act, which JUF has advocated for, was also included. This bipartisan bill restricts financial aid to the Palestinian Authority unless the Department of State confirms that the PA is taking steps to end attacks on U.S. and Israeli civilians, publicly condemns and investigates these attacks, and has terminated payments to terrorists and their families.
Congress additionally agreed to continue funding for the State Department's Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, which advances the United States' foreign policy on anti-Semitism, and add at least $1 million for programs to combat anti-Semitism abroad. Congress also included $3.1 billion for military assistance to Israel, as provided in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. and Israeli governments set to expire this fiscal year (2018) and to be replaced by the new 10-year MOU which calls for $38 billion in aid over the next decade beginning in 2019.
Also included in the bill was $705.8 million, an increase over FY 2017 spending, for the U.S.-Israel cooperative missile defense program to support Iron Dome, David's Sling and Arrows 1,2 and 3. Lastly, the bill includes $47.5 million for joint anti-tunneling technologies which Rep. Brad Schneider (IL-10) spearheaded in a letter to the House Appropriations Committee leadership.
One key area not included in the spending bill is protection for DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) recipients. JUF will continue to urge members of the Illinois congressional delegation to pass bipartisan legislation to provide permanent status protection for undocumented youth.