By Ashley Steeb
Editor’s note: This is the 16th in a series of stories about new laws that are taking effect, most of them on July 1.
INDIANAPOLIS – A new state law aims to clear up confusion over who is responsible for paying a 911 fee when it comes to low-income families who receive federal assistance to pay their phone bill.
By law, Hoosiers pay one dollar a month on their phone bill for 911 services. The dollar fee pays for expenses, such as operating call centers and text to 911.
For this new law, the debate revolves around the federally funded Lifeline Program, which offers financial help to qualifying families so they can use a phone to connect to jobs, family and emergency services.
According to Barry Ritter, executive director of the Indiana Statewide 911 Board, the new law clearly states the communications providers are required to pay the $1 monthly charge per Lifeline client.
“[The law] was the Statewide 911 Board’s second or third attempt to better define the responsibility of the providers, who provide the Lifeline phone service to the income qualified Hoosier,” Ritter said. “Fully define the responsibility of the providers’ to pay the 911 fee in Indiana.”
“There was a difference of opinion, based upon statute, between some of those providers, the Attorney General’s office and the Statewide 911 Board as to the applicability of the statute towards those providers,” Ritter said. “In that, those providers refused to remit the 911 fee to the state board.”
Ritter said the new law will save Hoosiers some money. The 911 expenses not covered by the dollar fee are paid for by the local government through property taxes and other means.
“With the addition of the Lifeline program being paid for by the providers just helps increase the revenue to offset the cost the taxpayers are now paying through property tax,” Ritter said.
Ashley Steeb is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.