Today, Senator Ed Rath called on the Department of Budget (DOB) to release critical funding grants for emergency services. Senator Rath was joined by Assemblyman Steve Hawley, Genesee County Legislature Chair Rochelle Stein, Undersheriff Brad Mazur, Genesee County Director of Emergency Communications Steven Sharpe, members of the Genesee County Legislature and members of the 911 Advisory Board.
“The delay in the release of this funding for our communities is extremely damaging," Senator Rath said. "As ranking member on the Senate Local Government’s Committee, I know the extreme duress many of our counties are under as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the State to be delaying the release of this funding, with no end in sight, is completely unacceptable.
"We need to be working with our counties and local governments, not adding unnecessary burdens. Unfortunately, this seems to be all too typical for our State. I am calling on the Department of Budget to release these grants (2020-21) and inform our counties when they will be able to apply for the current fiscal year’s grants (2021-22)."
Assemblyman Hawley said: "Our heroes of healthcare have been working dutifully throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure emergency services were not overwhelmed or interrupted during the highly contested time. To see that our 9-1-1 services are now under threat of being underfunded is unacceptable, and the State needs to take immediate action to ensure that our emergency telecommunications are not stifled."
"County governments must work alongside the State to ensure the funding needs are met for these important emergency services," said Genesee County Legislator Gregg Torrey, Human Services chair. “I want to thank Senator Rath and Assemblyman Hawley for fighting to secure our fair share of critical 9-1-1 funding which is needed to support our County Public Safety operations."
Genesee County Legislator Gary Maha, Public Service chair, said: "We have been fighting this battle for years through the New York State Sheriffs’ Association, the New York State 911 Coordinators Association and the New York State Association of Counties. It is time the Governor stops using these funds for other purposes than 9-1-1 services."
"The delay in releasing already collected 9-1-1 surcharge revenue money could cost Genesee County over $500k in the 2021 budget," said L. Matthew Landers, Genesee County manager, budget officer. "While we have long been advocating that a greater share of the collected surcharge go to the intended recipients, namely emergency communications operations such as the Genesee County Dispatch Center, this recent delay in funding is unexplainable and undermines emergency communications operations across the State."
Emergency Communications Director Sharpe, of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, and NYS 911 Coordinators Legislative Committee chair, said: “Over the past year, our first responder community needed to address the pandemic while continuing to provide emergency services to the public.
"Our friends at the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Interoperable and Emergency Communications (DHSES/OIEC) have been excellent partners by assisting local communities setting up communications for testing sites, emergency clinics, and now mass vaccination sites. DHSES/OIEC also hosted teleconferences for local and county partners to discuss best practices during the pandemic.
"Unfortunately, the State of New York has not honored their commitments regarding grant funding. Counties provide a majority of public safety answering point (9-1-1 center) services throughout the State and also administer a majority of public safety communications systems. During this pandemic, the State has inexplicably halted and delayed grant funding despite the funding stream for those grants increasing during the pandemic.
"We are asking our partners at the State to honor their words, obey the laws of the State of New York, execute the law in a timely manner, and release the grant funding that is now above a year overdue."
The State has yet to release the 2020-21 grant funding or the application information for 2021-22.