PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — For years, Rhode Island governors and lawmakers have used a portion of proceeds from the 911 fee to fund other programs in the budget, but now, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is urging the state to stop this practice.
The FCC sent a letter to Gov. Gina Raimondo and the governors of New York and New Jersey last week, urging them to end the diversion of 911 fees.
This is not the first time the FCC has urged Rhode island to stop diverting 911 fees to other budget items. Last year, FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly visited the state to discuss issues with the 911 system.
The latter, dated April 9, pointed to 2017 data that found New York diverted $170.9 million, New Jersey diverted $94.2 million and Rhode Island diverted $11.4 million.
O’Rielly called these three states “habitual diverters” and wrote, “the practice of diverting 911 fees gives your states proverbial black eyes, harms public safety, and makes your states ineligible for funding to modernize your emergency call centers.”
Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police Col. James Manni discussed the topic on a recent taping of Dan Yorke State of Mind and said he hopes to provide the highest level of service possible in 911 statewide.
“People expect it and they demand it,” he said.
A spokesperson for Raimondo sent Eyewitness News a statement about the improvements being made to the 911 system.
“Over the past year, E911 has hired six new telecommunicators and made key technology upgrades, including the Text-to-911 service,” the spokesperson said. “As the governor has said before, if the General Assembly were to consider reinstating a restricted receipt account for E911 funds, such reforms would be welcome.”
House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello released a statement as well, saying it is Raimondo’s decision to make regarding the diversion of 911 fees.
“If the governor proposes a budget amendment to create a restricted receipt account for the 911 fees, the House Finance Committee will consider it as part of the budget process,” the statement reads.