The cost of standing up an emergency services Internet Protocol network (ESInet)—which provides the transport architecture that enables emergency calls to be delivered to Next Generation 911 (NG911) emergency communications centers (ECCs), traditionally known as public safety answering points (PSAPs)—is significant. Consequently, the news out of the nation’s capital of late has been encouraging concerning federal funding that might become available to the public safety community for such implementations and much more.
On April 26-27, MCP will present back-to-back webinars for existing clients that will bring them up to speed on the various funding opportunities that might be used to support NG911 system deployments and other technology implementations. (Click here for more information.)
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which was signed into law by President Biden last month, calls for $1.9 trillion in federal funding, of which $362 billion has been allocated for distribution to state and local governments. Of this total, $130.2 billion will be directed to cities and counties. Only new projects are eligible, and they are required to have a “hook” related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Treasury has not issued the full guidance pertaining to this opportunity as of this writing, but is expected shortly. However, it appears that public broadband investments will be eligible for funding; this is good news for NG911 projects, because it might be possible to combine such networks with other projects that are eligible for funding under the act. It's expected that any funds received must be spent by December 31, 2022, but this could be extended.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security’s grant program is making $1.8 billion available to the public safety community. It is expected that 75 percent of the funding—or $1.39 million—will be allocated to support state-level homeland security, urban area security and emergency management preparedness initiatives. Further, it is anticipated that cybersecurity, information-sharing and communications upgrades will be given priority. That’s more good news for any agency that is in the midst of, or planning for, a migration to NG911.
In addition, the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow (LIFT) Act was introduced into the House in March. If enacted it would authorize $312 billion in funding for infrastructure improvements of all sorts, including those targeting clean water, clean energy and clean ports. Of this amount, $80 billion is being earmarked to expand broadband access nationwide, while another $15 billion is being set aside for NG911 expansion, as well as projects related to interoperability and cybersecurity—yet more good news for the public safety community.
Finally, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who co-chairs the Congressional Next-Gen 911 Caucus, pledged last week to reintroduce a bill that she first introduced two years ago. The Next Generation 911 Act of 2019 sought $12 billion to fund NG911 upgrades nationwide. Klobuchar reportedly has not revealed any details regarding the pending legislation, but it is expected that she again will seek $12 billion in NG911 funding, at a minimum.
It is justified for public safety officials to be optimistic about the funding opportunities described above. This is being described as a “once in a career” chance to grab federal money to advance local and state initiatives. It represents the silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by the federal government’s realization that tax revenues nationwide are down dramatically as a result of people losing their jobs; spending a lot less in stores, restaurants and bars, and entertainment venues; and severely curtailing business and personal travel, all due to the coronavirus.
But these opportunities also come with a few noteworthy caveats, as follows:
- Statewide and regional projects historically have been prioritized when it comes to receiving federal funding. The statewide angle is less vexing as it relates to the American Rescue Plan Act, which again has earmarked $130.2 million for cities and counties. But to put themselves into the best possible light, local authorities should band together if at all possible. A good example of this can be found in Pennsylvania, where several regional ESInets will be interconnected via a statewide ESInet that is being planned by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), which is an MCP client.
- There is no guarantee that either the LIFT Act or the bill reintroduced by Klobuchar ever will become law. In fact, the odd are against it. A lot can happen as a bill winds through Congress, and most of the time, it’s bad.
- The billions of dollars that will be available from the federal government sounds like a lot of money—and it is. But there also is going to be a lot of competition for it.
The way to put your agency into a favorable position to get some of it is to submit applications that align well with the grant guidance. This usually is a tricky proposition. Fortunately, MCP has numerous subject-matter experts who are experts in this regard, and they would love the opportunity to work with you. So, please reach out. In the meantime, we urge all of our clients to view the two grant-related webinars that we will present on April 26-27. Click here for all of the details.
Jackie Mines is a senior technology consultant and a certified emergency number professional (ENP). She can be emailed at JackieMines@MissionCriticalPartners.com.