911 funding unpaid by NYS

Staff reports
Special to The Chronicle-Express
Fire Coordinators

New York State's Sheriff's Association, 911 Coordinators Association, Emergency Management Association,  Fire Coordinators Association and Association of Counties have joined together in the following appeal to the state government regarding the promised yet undelivered funding for 911 services:

"Throughout New York State, counties control most of the 9-1-1 call centers, or Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) where 9-1-1 calls are handled by trained dispatch personnel. From these PSAPs dispatchers direct local law enforcement, Sheriff’s, Fire Departments, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), State Troopers, Park Police, and other agencies to the location of the call, depending on the nature of the emergency.

"The funding mechanism used today to help operate, maintain, and upgrade 9-1-1 system capabilities is out of date and does not correspond to technology changes. The current funding mechanism, the grant funding we receive from the state is delayed, the process is overly burdensome, and the funding levels have remained the same for over a decade. To date, counties have not been provided a penny for all of 2020 for Statewide Interoperable Communications.

"Much like the State of New York, counties and local municipalities are struggling from significant losses in revenues due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The delay in grant funding is exacerbating the economic impact of COVID-19 on Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and Interoperable Communications projects throughout the state. The delay in funding directly impacts communities’ abilities to provide critical and life-saving communications services to 911 centers, emergency management agencies, emergency medical services, hospitals, public health agencies, and other responder communities.

"New York State’s plan for funding 9-1-1 should be straightforward. The legislative intent of the Public Safety Surcharge was to provide revenues to cover all costs associated with providing 9-1-1 services and operating PSAPs. Under the NYS Tax Law, $.50 of this $1.20 goes to the State’s General Fund and is not dedicated to public safety. The remaining $.70 goes to a variety of public safety programs, including state agencies, to supplant General Fund appropriations.

"We are asking the State to immediately provide the following:

"· Award the FY 2020 -2021 PSAP Operations Grant

"· Issue RFA (Request for Applications) for the FY20 Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant (SICG)

"In addition, we ask the following:

"· facilitate a fair funding process and provide counties with the needed funding for PSAPs and Interoperable Communications that is stated in law.

"· consider increasing the county allocation to the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant (SICG) and PSAP grants to ensure public safety communications projects are funded in a fair, efficient, and equitable model which will allow counties to achieve county-wide and statewide interoperability.

"Our associations want to thank you for all the state has done thus far to improve public safety communications and your continued leadership during this extremely challenging time for the nation in responding to the COVID-19."