Assemblymember Cahill Calls For Full Release of Enhanced 911 Funds

State risks losing federal matching funds
February 20, 2004

In light of an audit critical of the Governorís use of wireless phone surcharges, Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) called for the full release of funds collected to improve New Yorkís local 911 systems.

State Comptroller Alan Hevesi recently found that the Governorís administration diverted over 40 percent of wireless phone surcharges intended for updating 911 service to enable local emergency operators to locate wireless callers in distress. The report also noted New York risks losing federal matching funds for 911 improvements if the practice continues.

"While itís encouraging to see some expansion of enhanced 911 capabilities, itís frustrating to think that after more than 10 years of surcharges, improvements in many counties are lagging," Mr. Cahill said. "And itís extremely frustrating to learn that the Governorís failure to use this surcharge as earmarked and at the expense of our familiesí.

Since 1991, New York wireless phone users have paid well over $200 million in surcharges to establish a statewide E-911 emergency telephone communications system. Yet delays in funding have left New York without a statewide system for pinpointing wireless 911 callers. Wireless customers currently pay between $1.20 and $1.50 in surcharges monthly for E-911 programs.

"Up to half of 911 calls are made from wireless phones," Assemblymember Cahill said. "Many people who bought wireless phones for emergencies assume that, as with a landline phone, a 911 operator can trace their location. Itís time for the Governor to stop delaying, release the funds our families are counting on and give New York the safety weíve already paid for."

Assemblymember Cahill also noted that last yearís budget, which was enacted over the Governorís vetoes, helped free up $100 million in grants to assist local governments in establishing E-911 systems.