National Association of the Deaf

NAD Condemns the Depletion of State TRS Funds by State Legislatures

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is disturbed by a growing trend among state legislatures of taking funds from state telecommunications relay services (TRS) funds and using them for non-TRS purposes. These are intrastate funds that are used for TTY relay services, CapTel, Hearing Carry-Over, and Voice Carry-Over services and not IP-Relay or Video Relay Services. Most recently, the states of Alabama and Montana have passed bills to transfer state TRS funds to other non-TRS funds. These transfers are being made under special circumstances and will not necessarily happen on a regular basis in the future.

Under Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act, common carriers (telephone companies) are required to establish interstate and intrastate TRS 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TRS enables deaf and hard of hearing callers to communicate with non-deaf people through a third party communications assistant. To provide this service, common carriers pay into TRS funds which are used to provide this service. These payments are a form of taxation in exchange for the actual provision of  telecommunications services in the United States.

A preliminary review of FCC rules and guidelines has not shown a definitive answer on the propriety of using TRS funds for other purposes, but NAD continues to research this issue. Nevertheless, NAD opposes this type of transfer when relay services are still not functionally equivalent.

While these state legislatures may believe that the “extra” funds are surplus funds and ex