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Schumer, Levy Announce New Push For Federal Funding For New County-Wide 311 System

County Exec outlines need for single non-emergency number Suffolk County residents can call for help with government services In November, Schumer secured $500,000 for Town of North Hempstead 311 system - plans same all-out effort for Suffolk

Senator Charles E. Schumer and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy today announced a new effort to secure federal funding for a 311call system that Suffolk County residents can use for nonemergencies not covered by the county's 911emergency call system.

"Establishing a communication management system in Suffolk County is a winwin situation. It frees up 911, ensuring it is only used for emergencies. The 311 system will provide residents with a much needed resource for any nonemergency need, concern, or question," Schumer said.

"Having a 311 system where residents can route their qualityoflife complaints has been a priority of mine since I was a County Legislator," said Levy. Senator Schumer was on the phone to my office within a day after the State of the County to offer his assistance on obtaining funding, and we certainly appreciate his support and enthusiasm for the project."

In his State of the County address three weeks ago, Levy announced that Suffolk County will explore the possibility of implementing a 311 system to avoid waste and delays in 911 response time that can cost lives. He also announced the creation of a fivemember panel that will report to him by June how this concept can be suitably implemented.

Schumer said today that he plans to make funding for Suffolk's 311 system a high priority for 2006. There are 1.4 million residents in Suffolk County, and nearly 50 different departments, divisions, or offices in County Government with over 12,000 employees. Currently, residents rely on the blue pages or the internet to find government listings, which can be a slow, arduous process. It can be nearly impossible to find the agency or service the caller is looking for. For calls to or within County government, there is no standardized routing procedure and phones are only staffed between 8:30am5pm daily. As a result, 911 is on the receiving end for both emergency and non emergency calls..

Last November, Schumer secured $500,000 for a "311 Communication Management System" in the 2005 omnibus spending bill for the Town of North Hempstead in Nassau County. The funding was included in the Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary portion of the bill.

North Hempstead is planning to create a 311 nonemergency phone number, in part, because the town's Inspector General found that their emergency communication system is clogged and unresponsive because of the large number of nonemergency calls that are placed to 911. North Hempstead also found that their government's current handling of nonemergency calls is ineffective and noncentralized. Schumers success in securing funding for North Hempstead prompted a closer look at the need for this system in other areas on Long Island.

Across the country, 311 systems have been developed to make local governments more accessible to their constituents by letting people request and receive information and government services by calling one simple, tollfree number 311. Call takers at a centralized call center, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, provide information, take service requests and refer callers to government agencies. Service requests made via 311 are transferred to the appropriate government agency for direct and immediate service.

New York City 311, which was implemented in 2003, was able to consolidate over 30 call centers and hundreds of government phone numbers from the Actuary of the City of New York to the Youth and Community Development Department and includes such oftendialed numbers as the Department of Health, the Taxi and Limousine Commission, and the Department of Sanitation, into 311. Schumer and Levy said that Suffolk's 311 system will build on the lessons learned from other 311 systems already designed and implemented across the country.

In the program's first year, New York City government logged over 8 million calls, or approximately one call for each of the 8,115,135 New York City residents. As of November, the average number of calls per day was about 40,000 calls, with an average length of service per call at about 26 seconds. The record number of 311 calls received per day by New York City is 111,000 calls, in response to the flu vaccine availability and the STAR tax rebate

"At a time when every government is looking to do more with less, it is gratifying to see lawmakers like Senator Schumer step forward to support our efforts to speed up 911 response and enhance the flow of information to our 1.4 million residents," Levy concluded.

"As we can see from the success of New York Citys 311 line, this system works. It can make a world of difference in a citys communication capabilities," Schumer said. The bottom line is, the 911 emergency response system benefits from this by being less clogged and more able to respond to real emergencies, all residents benefit from a greater service to the public.