A bill that would give public-safety organizations an additional two years to spend $1 billion federal grant money dedicated to interoperable communications received support from the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).

As part of the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005, Congress allocated $1 billion — generated from revenues realized from the 700 MHz auction — for the Interoperable Emergency Communications Grant Program (IECGP), which was used to fund the Public Safety Interoperable Communications (PSIC) grant program. Under existing law, the grant money must be spent by Sept. 30, 2010.

However, many projects would have difficulty meeting the 2010 deadline for multiple reasons. In some cases, the grant money was not available for several months as legislatures wrangled over state budget issues. In other situations, issues related to procurement requirements, FCC licensing and compliance with environmental-protection laws have caused delays.

With this in mind, Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-La.), has proposed H.R. 1819, which would extend the deadline until Sept. 30, 2012.

"APCO International strongly supports H.R. 1819 and will be working to gain co-sponsors and support for its immediate passage," APCO President Chris Fischer said in a prepared statement. "APCO International further looks forward to introduction and expedited consideration of a Senate companion bill to extend the PSIC grant program for an additional two years."

Yucel Ors, APCO's director of legislative affairs, said he does not know of any opposition to extending the PSIC deadline but noted that may not be enough to guarantee passage of the bill.

"I don't see why there should be any opposition to it, but just because there are so many other issues on the table right now, their focus might not be completely on it," Ors said during an interview with Urgent Communications.

Public safety's other key issue with the PSIC grants has been the requirement for a 20% match — a commitment that has become increasingly difficult to meet as the economic downturn has left local and state governments with budget shortfalls. Ors said the Cao proposal does not address the matching question, although extending the deadline might allow more time for public-safety entities to find money to meet the match requirements.