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$5 million in the budget for security at small, mid-sized houses of worship

The new state budget includes $5 million earmarked for security needs at small and medium-sized houses of worship and nonprofits.

The grant program will be operated by the Arizona Department of Homeland Security. 

“It's an extra layer of security for smaller nonprofits and houses of worship who have been targeted, based upon their beliefs, their religious practices, their mission or, or vision statements from the community,” said the Rev. Katie Sexton-Wood, the executive director of the Arizona Faith Network.

A similar funding program exists at the federal level. But Sexton-Wood said it’s harder for smaller organizations to access those funds because it’s a reimbursement program.

“Our synagogues, our mosques, our LGBTQ+ churches that have been targeted based upon their belief systems, they don't always have that capital upfront to do the security infrastructure that's needed to keep them safe within their own walls,” she said.

Originally sponsored as Senate Bill 1713, Republican Sen. David Gowan helped secure the funds as part of a broader, bipartisan $17.8 billion budget.

“Individuals seeking the comfort of a religious service should have the confidence of knowing they are in a safe environment,” Gowan said in a statement.

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.