Have a phone in PA? You might have a new fee coming to your bill

May 5 — A federal law passed in 2019 by the Federal Communications Commission required every state in the US to convert their phone systems so that citizens can dial 988 for a mental health crisis.

It’s just like dialing 911 for police assistance, but this is for people who are facing a serious mental health crisis.

The systems were required to be converted by July 16 of this year.

Governor Tom Wolf came out within the last few days proposing a $.99 per phone line per month fee that would fund the 988 hotline.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “On the surface that may not sound like much, but you’re seeing some Republicans in the general assembly come out saying wait a minute, if you own the local radio station or a small law firm, and remember this is not only your landlines, but it’s your fax machines, your cell phones, it would not be unusual to have five, six, seven, eight lines. If you’re a bigger business, you may have dozens and dozens of phone lines. This quickly starts adding up to maybe hundreds of dollars a year, year after year on a recurring basis.”

It will hit pretty much everyone — we all have a phone of some kind.

It remains to be seen what the general assembly will do with this.

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM pointed out, “The odd thing, the government’s promoting a lot of things and mental health professionals, I’m sorry, they are promoting a lot of things that’s making our mental health worse in this country. So again, I’m seeing a government and ideologically created mess that then they’re asking us to pay for with something that I question even some of the ways that this emergency line is going to be used. It’s maddening to see government and ideological created ideas that then they turn around and say okay, you just pay for it. It’s absurd.”

Barkdoll added, “And this is in addition to, we’re already paying $1.65 per month per phone line for 911 support and I think most people are okay with that. We realize the benefits of 911, but again so now you tack on another $.99 cents for this and then does this just become the drip, drip, drip of ongoing fees that easily get tacked onto phones because the government knows everyone has at least one phone line. It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds because we’re really only about two months away from this line being active.”