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December 20, 2018 - 9:16am

Collins again calls on state to stop diverting 9-1-1 funds

posted by Howard B. Owens in news, chris collins, NY-27.

Press release: 

Today Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) again called on New York State's Governor, Andrew Cuomo to stop diverting fees collected for 9-1-1 services. The Federal Communication Commission's annual report shows that New York State continues to divert nearly 42 percent of fees collected from consumers on their phone bills -- which are meant to be used to improve 9-1-1 emergency communications systems -- to the Governor's slush fund.

Earlier this year, Congressman Collins introduced the 911 Fee Integrity Act, that prevents states from diverting fees collected for 9-1-1 services. Collins' bill directs the FCC, in consultation with public safety organizations, and state, local and tribal governments, to determine the appropriate use of funds collected from consumers.

Currently, states are able to set their own definition of what is a covered cost for 9-1-1 fees, which has allowed states such as New York to divert fees into a general fund.

"It is completely unacceptable that New York State continues to divert funds meant to improve 9-1-1 emergency services, to Governor Cuomo's corrupt and shady slush fund," Collins said.

"These fees should be used to make important and necessary improvements to emergency response systems -- doing otherwise is inappropriate and puts New York residents at risk.

"We must prioritize the safety of our communities and improving these services is absolutely essential to keeping our residents safe. I remain committed to pushing the Governor to end this deceptive practice."

The FCC's annual report identifies six states and one territory as diverting 9-1-1 fees for other uses last year: Montana, New Jersey, New York, Nevada, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. New York also tops the list with one of the highest 9-1-1 fess at $1.20 per line.

"When Americans pay 9-1-1 fees on their phone bills, they rightfully expect that money to fund 9-1-1-related services," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in the FCC's release. "Unfortunately, the FCC's annual report shows that, once again, several states have siphoned 9-1-1 funding for unrelated purposes.

"This is outrageous and it undermines public safety. But there is also some good news: Thanks to Commissioner O'Rielly's efforts to shine a light on the issue of 9-1-1 fee diversion, as well as the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau's ongoing work, this is the first time that every jurisdiction has responded to the FCC's annual 9-11- fee survey.

"Hopefully, drawing attention in this way to the unacceptable practice of 9-1-1 fee diversion will help end it."

The FCC is required by law to submit an annual report to Congress on the states' collection and distribution of 9-1-1 fees. The FCC's latest state 9-1-1 fee report, as well as reports from prior years, are available here. The agency also issued a Public Notice seeking comment on the findings in the new report.

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