As General Assemblies meet in Richmond and Annapolis, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington is aiming to replace funds that were redirected last year for pandemic relief.
“For years, [JCRC’s] view has been to make our voices heard and to focus on areas where we can make the biggest difference,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the JCRC.
”In order to be effective legislatively and politically, you need to focus in on your priorities,” Halber continued. ”There’s no doubt that in both Virginia and Maryland, and in D.C., that it’s COVID, COVID, COVID.’
Halber said that in Virginia, the JCRC’s focus is on maintaining previous levels of funding for Jewish organizations. It appears that funds that were redirected last year will be earmarked for their original recipients, he said.
One example is a proposal to create a grant program that made $1.5 million available for faith based institutions, including synagogues, to use for security needs. The entire amount was “pulled out of the budget last year because of COVID relief,” Halber said.
Another was a $50,000 increase in funding to Jewish Social Service Agency for the care of Holocaust survivors. That amount was reduced, Halber said.
Also in Virginia, a funding allocation amendment that would have supported the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes to expand its transitioning youth program was diverted to COVID relief.
All of these items are back in Virginia’s budget, Halber said.
In Maryland, JCRC is pushing to maintain funding for Holocaust survivor programs, elder abuse services and for economic development between Israel and Maryland.
Another priority is maintaining state funding for two programs that offer millions of dollars to nonprofit institutions, including houses of worship. One program supports security; the other aids schools.
“It’s going to be a session like we’ve never seen before, because it’s being conducted in an atmosphere of COVID,” Halber said. “And they’re trying to figure out ways to allow for maximum participation, but at the same time allow for people to remain healthy.”