Legislation that would provide as much as $1.25 billion over five years to help public-safety answering points (PSAPs) upgrade to next-generation 911 has the support of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), according to NENA CEO Brian Fontes.

“The thing that’s important about this legislation is that it recognizes the need to move our 911 centers into the next generation, and the focus of this legislation really is next generation, so it moves it from the current E-911 environment to NG-911,” Fontes said. “I think that’s critically important.”

With the notable exception of focusing on NG-911 upgrades instead of E-911 upgrades, the legislation — introduced last week in both the House and Senate — is similar to the Enhance 911 Act passed in 2004. That legislation also authorized $1.25 billion — $250 million per year — for E-911 upgrades, but only $43 million was ever appropriated.

Fontes said the legislation enjoys bicameral and bipartisan support, and he is hopeful that the Senate will pass its version of the bill by August. As for the appropriations side of the equation, “that’s always, in this case, the $250 million question,” he said.

Some Beltway sources have indicated that funding was not appropriated under the 2004 act because many lawmakers represented areas of the country that already had upgraded to E-911, so they were less willing to support a funding initiative that would not direct money to their constituencies. With NG-911, all areas of the country would be eligible to apply for money under any grant program established.

Fontes said he would like to see language included in the legislation that would prevent governmental entities from raiding 911 funds.

“We would love to see the transportation committee … basically penalize — through some type of forfeiture of funds that they provide states — any of the funds up to the amount that are reallocated from the 911 accounts to other accounts, so that there is some penalty associated with raiding 911 funds,” he said.