$5 million in 9-1-1 funds “swept” into 988; Illinois Chiefs and others object

April 21, 2022

Unfortunately, the new state budget for FY23 signed into law this week by Governor Pritzker requires the state comptroller to “transfer the sum of $5,000,000 from the Statewide 9-1-1 Fund to the Statewide 9-8-8 Trust Fund."

It had been the intention of the Illinois Chiefs and some others to ask the governor to amendatorily veto that portion of the budget bill, but now it’s too late for that.

This is sending alarm bells throughout law enforcement in Illinois, which is calling it a “sweep” of 911 funds into the new 988 program. The 988 system is a national three-digit dialing code for calls from individuals experiencing mental health crises. The state of Illinois is partnering with the six existing Lifeline call centers in Illinois, as well as key stakeholders in the state, to attempt a smooth transition to the 988 system when it is scheduled to roll out in July 2022.

The sweep of $5 million was done without the knowledge of law enforcement.

“I want our members to know we are aware of this, and we are hearing from concerned members throughout the state,” said ILACP Executive Director Ed Wojcicki. “We are in close communication with the Illinois State Police and others about this to determine what our next best steps will be to protect our 911 centers and to make sure Illinois does not suffer any consequences from the feds by sweeping 911 funds.”

Possible immediate remedies are to ask the state to postpone the sweep and to ask the legislature to amend this portion of the law when it reconvenes for the veto session. “But we’re not sure yet exactly what we will request; we will keep our members posted,” Wojcicki said.

A letter sent this week to the governor and legislative leaders is circulating widely and summarizes three major problems with sweeping 911 funds:

“First, 9-1-1 centers around Illinois depend on surcharge money in order to operate. Any unforeseen or unbudgeted decrease in that revenue could have serious repercussions. Second, sweeping these funds makes Illinois ineligible for federal grant funds at a time where Next Generation 9-1-1 initiatives are ramping up. Last, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has detailed what expenses are acceptable for 9-1-1. Expenses for 9-8-8 would not qualify according to the FCC’s standards.”

That letter was dated April 19, 2022, and was signed by the presidents of the Illinois chapters of the Association of Public Safety Officials (APCO) and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). They believe they represent “all the dedicated professionals working in 9-1-1 in the State of Illinois and have the best interests of the entire 9-1-1 industry in mind with this urgent letter.”

Stay tuned.