Over the many months that Congress deliberated over another massive coronavirus bill, several key provisions of enormous importance to the Orthodox Jewish community—individuals, shuls, schools and charitable institutions – were under consideration. Throughout, Agudath Israel of America worked tirelessly and successfully with Capitol Hill leadership to help achieve these vital goals. Especially critical was the unwavering support of Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY).“There was no one more supportive of our interests than Senator Schumer in fighting for, and advancing, provisions that would help alleviate the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the Orthodox Jewish community,” stated Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Government Affairs and Washington Director. “There were many ups and downs, highs and lows, during the course of the legislation, but we knew that the Senator would continue championing the community’s priorities.
”As Democratic Leader, Senator Schumer played a key role in the COVID package negotiations. Ultimately, the legislation was worked on and finalized by the four House and Senate leaders. Senator Schumer was a strong and influential voice during those talks, as reflected in a number of the final bill’s provisions.
Yeshiva Funding – Of enormous benefit to our community’s yeshivas, the bill included additional funding specifically set aside for private schools. In a change from earlier proposals that would have provided no assistance at all to private schools, Senator Schumer continued his push for yeshiva and other private school funding in this bill, as he did in the original coronavirus bill. The package reserves a major allocation of $2.75 billion for nonpublic schools for a variety of important uses, to be administered quickly by the states.
PPP for Non-Profits — As the original CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans proved so critical to the Orthodox Jewish community, a second round of loans became another legislative priority. Indeed, it was Senator Schumer who insisted that these loans go also to struggling non-profits, including faith-based organizations. Despite opposition from certain corners, he pushed hard for inclusion of our shuls, yeshivas, charities and community centers in the original bill and continued to insist on the eligibility of these entities during this second round as well.
Security Funding — Congress’s passage of $180 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program — doubling current levels — was a landmark achievement. NSGP provides up to $100,000 worth of security assistance to nonprofits at high risk of terrorist attack for the purchase of security enhancements such as cameras, concrete barriers, reinforced doors and personnel. It is a program highly valued and desired by our shuls, yeshivas and community institutions, and earlier on Senator Schumer spoke loudly and forcefully for a significant boost – up to a quadrupling — in funding, which clearly resulted in this giant step forward in securing our community and saving lives.
Other provisions in the final bill, including enhanced direct payments to large families and increasing charitable deductions for joint filers, will also be very beneficial to our community.
“Everyone knows that Agudath Israel has enjoyed a decades-long relationship with Chuck Schumer, going back to the days of our great leader, Rabbi Moshe Sherer, and over time that relationship has only deepened,” said Rabbi David Zwiebel, Agudah’s Executive Vice President. “We know that he is fighting for our rights and best interests, and we will continue to work closely and cooperatively on mutual legislative priorities as we move forward.”