The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is trying to stop the widespread use of 911 funds by states to pay for other budgetary priorities.  States are using the 911 fees collected from the public to help pay for other government services according to the FCC commissioners.

“On our individual phone bills, a line item is typically included for 911 service,” FCC Commissioners Michael O’Reilly and Jessica Rosenworcel wrote in an opinion piece.  “It’s relatively small fee that states and localities charge to support emergency calling services.  But too many states are stealing these funds and using them for other purposes, like filling budget gaps, purchasing vehicles or worse.”

The FCC sent a report to Congress on 2016 911 fees that are diverted by six states, including New Mexico, Rhode Island, Illinois, New Jersey and West Virginia, for a combined total of $128.9 million. Seven other states did not respond to the FCC Commission’s request for information about use of 911 funds in their states. New York is among the states that did not respond to request for information.  The FCC found by looking at public records that “information exists to support a finding that New York diverted funds for non-public safety uses,” according to the report.

The FCC commissioners are frustrated because there has been no change “after almost 15 years of working on the problem,” said Commissioner O’Reilly in a recent blog post. “In addition to Commission options, Congress has full ability to correct diverting state’s practices either by directly applying existing law or by exerting necessary leverage via its extensive grants and funding regimes.”

The commissioners are concerned that public safety is being compromised since “it can lead to understaffed calling centers, longer wait times in an emergency, and sluggish dispatch for public safety personnel.  It also will slow the ability of 911 call centers to update their systems to support digital age technologies.” O’Reilly and Rosenworcel urged the federal government to protect the public by ensuring that public safety program 911 fees are not raided by the states for other budgetary purposes.

SOURCE: EMS1 News, “Officials: States stealing 911 funds to fill budget gaps”

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