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Collins again calls on Cuomo to 'stop diverting 911 fees' after FCC's annual report

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Fri, Dec 21st 2018 04:30 pm

Congressman Chris Collins, R-NY-27, again called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to “stop diverting fees collected for 911 services.”

In a press release, Collins’ camp said “the Federal Communication Commission's annual report shows 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 911 emergency communications systems – to the governor's slush fund.”

Earlier this year, Collins introduced the 911 Fee Integrity Act, which prevents states from diverting fees collected for 911 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 911 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 911 emergency services, to Gov. 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 911 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 911 fess at $1.20 per line.

"When Americans pay 911 fees on their phone bills, they rightfully expect that money to fund 911-related services," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in the FCC's release. "Unfortunately, the FCC's annual report shows that, once again, several states have siphoned 911 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 911 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 911 fee survey. Hopefully, drawing attention in this way to the unacceptable practice of 911 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 911 fees. The FCC's latest state 911 fee report, as well as reports from prior years, are available at www.fcc.gov/general/911-fee-reports. The agency also issued a public notice seeking comment on the findings in the new report. 

To learn more about Collins' 911 Fee Integrity Act, visit https://chriscollins.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/collins-introduces-legislation-to-address-9-1-1-fee-diversion.

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