Fact Check

Does Melania Trump's NYC Security Cost Twice the NEA's Budget?

One report claimed the cost of protecting the First Lady while she lives in New York City would be around $300 million per year.

Published Feb 2, 2017

 (Lev Radin/Shutterstock)
Image Via Lev Radin/Shutterstock
Providing security for First Lady Melania Trump in New York City would cost double the amount it takes to fund the National Endowment for the Arts.

On 31 January 2017, author and BOMB magazine marketing director Ryan Chapman asserted on Twitter that the cost of providing security for First Lady Melania Trump while she lived in New York City would be double the annual budget for the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). Chapman's statement came less than a month after reports that Melania's husband, President Donald Trump, planned to eliminate federal funding for both the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

When asked for sources, Chapman cited a New York Times article estimating the NEA's annual funding at around $148 million. (The NEA's website states their 2016 funding as $147,949,000.) Chapman also cited an estimate first reported by CNN that providing security for the entire Trump family was costing New York City more than $1 million a day:

Protecting President-elect Donald Trump and his family is costing New York City more than $1 million a day, according to three city officials.

And those costs won't necessarily drop significantly once he moves to the White House. That's because Melania Trump and their 10-year old son Barron expect to stay at their home at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, at least until the end of the school year. And Donald Trump has indicated he plans to return home regularly, especially while they're still here.

Adding to the expense is the cost of police assigned to Trump's adult children and his grandchildren, who are also receiving Secret Service protection, John Miller, NYPD's deputy commissioner of intelligence & counterterrorism

When asked about that figure on 7 December 2016, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called it "premature," adding that the city had asked the federal government for $35 million in reimbursement for protecting Melania Trump between 8 November 2016 and her husband's inauguration on 20 January 2017. As the Times reported, the request was based on a daily security cost of $500,000. The city has reportedly been reimbursed for $7 million.

However, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill lowered that estimate in a 21 February 2017 letter to the state congressional delegation, saying that it cost $24 million to protect the First Family between the election and the inauguration, or $11 million less than de Blasio's request. The letter also included estimates for security costs for both the First Lady and the President:

On days when Mr. Trump is not in the city, the department estimates that it costs $127,000 to $146,000 a day “to protect the first lady and her son while they reside in Trump Tower.” On days when Mr. Trump is in New York City — he has not yet returned since his inauguration — the Police Department anticipates “an average daily rate of $308,000.”

That would come out to about $50 million a year if Mr. Trump avoided returning to Manhattan, or just over $60 million if he began returning on weekends.

Based on the figures O'Neill included in his letter, it would cost between $46,355,000 and $53,290,000 a year to provide security for Melania and Barron Trump alone at Trump Tower, substantially lower than Chapman's prediction.

Also, if the president were to spend every weekend in New York beginning in March 2017, it would cost $27,104,000 to provide security during those 88 days, which would also be less than the NEA's annual budget. However, if President Trump's proposed budget were accepted as submitted, the NEA's annual budget would be effectively zero (unless it secured funding from private sources).


The New York Times.    "What If Trump Really Does End Money for the Arts?"       30 January 2017.

Isidore, Chris et al.     "Protecting Donald Trump Costs New York City More Than $1 Million a Day."       CNN Money.     21 November 2016.

Goodman, J. David.    "New York Asks U.S. to Pay Trump Security Costs; Puts First Bill at $35 Million."       The New York Times.     5 December 2016.

Goldstein, Joseph.    "New York Police Lower Cost Estimate of Guarding Trump and His Tower."       The New York Times.    22 February 2017.

Arturo Garcia is a former writer for Snopes.