This article was updated April 26, 2021.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) COVID-19 Telehealth Program announced on April 15, 2021, that it will be accepting a second round of applications. On Thursday, April 29, 2021, at 12 p.m. ET, the filing window will open. It will close one week later, on Thursday, May 6, 2021, at 12 p.m. ET.
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program was originally funded with $200 million through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and received an additional $249.95 million from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, signed on December 27, 2020. The first round provided funding to 539 applicants in 47 states and was awarded on a rolling basis, which benefited earlier applicants. All 50 states will be included in the second round.
The revised application and award process will establish a scoring system for applicants, with more focus on equitable distribution. Points will be awarded based on the following metrics, which are defined in detail in the Report and Order:
- Hardest hit areas
- Low income areas
- Round one unfunded applicants
- Tribal communities
- Critical Access Hospitals (CAH)
- Federally qualified health centers (FQHC), FQHC Look-Alike, or Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH)
- Healthcare Provider Shortage Areas (HPSA)
- Round two new applicants
- Rural counties
The seven-day application window is meant to help guarantee projects are reviewed concurrently, rather than on a first come, first served basis, as was the case in the first round. Funding will be awarded in two phases to facilitate speedier delivery to approved projects in the first phase, while giving nonapproved applicants an additional ten-day time period to submit supplemental information to qualify.
The program remains open to eligible health care provider sites that treat patients, whether located in rural or non-rural areas or US territories, limited to:
- Post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools
- Community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants
- Local health departments or agencies
- Community mental health centers
- Not-for-profit hospitals
- Rural Health Clinics (RHC)—for purposes of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which is authorized by the CARES Act, and not the 1996 Telecommunications Act, both rural and non-rural health clinics are eligible to receive funding
- Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF)
- Consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories
Eligible Funding Purposes
Expenditures and services eligible for funding are those that are necessary to provide telehealth services to patients in response to the coronavirus pandemic, such as the following:
- Telecommunications. Voice services and Internet connectivity services for health care providers or their patients.
- Information Services. Remote patient monitoring platforms and services; patient reported outcome platforms; store and forward services, such as asynchronous transfer of patient images and data for interpretation by a physician; platforms and services to provide synchronous video consultation.
- Connected Devices. Tablets, smart phones, or connected devices to provide telehealth services, such as broadband, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth-enabled blood pressure monitors and pulse-oximeters for patient or health care provider use; telemedicine kiosks or carts for health care provider sites. General office scanners and printers aren’t considered connected devices for purposes of this program.
Expenses must have been incurred on or after March 13, 2020. The program will fund up to 12 months of recurring expenses.
How to Apply
The application window is April 29, 2021, until May 6, 2021, at 12 p.m. ET.
Interested health care providers must complete several steps to apply for funding through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Applicants can take the following first four steps immediately to prepare for the application portal opening.
1. Obtain an eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) by submitting FCC Form 460
Providers that USAC has previously deemed eligible to participate in the Commission’s existing Rural Health Care Programs may rely on that eligibility determination for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
Applicants that don’t yet have an eligibility determination from USAC can file an application for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program while the FCC Form 460 is pending a response from USAC.
2. Obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN) in the Commission Registration System
An FRN is a 10-digit number that is assigned to a business or individual registering with the FCC.
Registration requires, at a minimum, the Dun & Bradstreet number (DUNS). Additionally, you’ll need the bank routing and account numbers and type of account for receiving a direct deposit. An administrator who is authorized to bind the organization and is familiar with the legal and financial history of the organization should complete the registration.
This step can be completed before or after the funding application is submitted, but must be complete before a payment can be remitted by the FCC to an awardee.
SAM.gov estimates that it takes 10 days to complete the approval process.
4. Submit the FCC Telehealth Program application
The application portal and instructions will be posted on the FCC Telehealth Program site. The Report and Order provides additional details about funding eligibility and application requirements. Additionally, the FCC has posted copies of prior applications, public notices, frequently asked questions, and newsletters.
The following information is required to complete the application:
- Applicant information (organization)
- Contact information (individual)
- Health care provider information
- Requested funding items, including a narrative explanation of how items will be used
- Medical services to be provided
- Conditions to be treated with COVID-19 Telehealth Funding
- Additional information concerning requested services and devices, including objectives and how outcomes will be monitored
- Supporting documentation, including budgets or vendor invoices
Once approved for the FCC Telehealth Program, awardees must directly pay the vendor or service provider for the costs of the eligible services or connected devices received, then submit requests for reimbursement on at least a monthly basis to the FCC using the Invoice Processing Platform.
We’re Here to Help
For questions about how to apply, eligible expenses, how this program fits into your overall COVID-19 funding strategy, and additional funding opportunities, contact your Moss Adams professional.
Special thanks to Danni Noonan, Staff, and Scott Murphy, Staff, Health Care Practice, for their contributions to this article.