A fund created by state legislators this year to provide wage benefits to firefighters diagnosed with cancer violates federal law, state utility regulators determined this week.
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) was reviewing the new program, slated to take effect in February, because it would be funded by diverting money from the state's Enhanced 911 (E-911) account. Under Public Act 16-10, approximately $250,000 would be diverted to the cancer relief account in the first year.
In a Dec. 27 draft decision, PURA said the proposed funding mechanism would violate federal law because it "would create disparate treatment among telecommunications providers."
In addition, using E-911 funds for other purposes could also mean the state would forgo its ability to get federal grants for telecommunications equipment and other 911 costs and services, PURA said.
The Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which administers E-911, told PURA commissioners in November that it expects states to compete for a total of $115 million in federal grants in the coming year. In 2012, Connecticut received nearly $800,000 in such grants.
While the new law is set to take effect in February, no firefighter would have been able to receive benefits until 2022.