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The Federal Communications Commission Announces Narrow Window to Apply for Second Round of COVID-19 Telehealth Program Funding – Applications Due May 6, 2021

On April 29, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will begin accepting applications for the second round of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program (the “Program”). However, the application filing window will only be open for a very short seven-day period and will close on May 6, 2021. To give all applicants an equal opportunity to have their applications reviewed, the FCC announced that all applications filed during this period will be reviewed once the application filing window has closed.

Initially, in March 2020, Congress appropriated $200 million for the first round of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding under the CARES Act. An additional $249.95 million was provided to the FCC in December 2020, under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), to helping address inequities in access to health care services. The COVID-19 Telehealth Program was designed to help health care providers purchase telecommunications equipment, broadband connectivity, and other devices necessary for providing telehealth services to rural, low-income and underserved populations.

The Program is limited to nonprofit and public health care providers (47 U.S.C. § 254(h)(7)(B)) that fall within the following categories:

  1. Post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;

  2. Community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;

  3. Local health departments or agencies;

  4. Community mental health centers;

  5. Not-for-profit hospitals;

  6. Rural health clinics;

  7. Skilled nursing facilities; or

  8. Consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities falling into one of the first seven categories.

The FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program is not a grant, rather it is an award program where eligible health care providers may receive reimbursements for certain qualified telemedicine and mHealth expenses and services. The funds awarded to providers through this Program have been designated by the FCC to support “the efforts of health care providers to continue serving their patients by providing telecommunications services, information services, and connected devices necessary to enable telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

There is a two-step process for health care providers that want to be apply for and be considered for this funding opportunity. Initially, health care providers must be deemed eligible by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC). Providers that have not already been deemed eligible under other FCC programs can obtain an eligibility determination by filing FCC Form 460 with the USAC. Form 460 requires basic information about the health care provider, including a brief explanation of why the provider is eligible under the statute for the FCC programs. Providers submitting new Form 460s may still submit a COVID-19 Telehealth Program application, the second step in the process, while their USAC determinations are pending.

The FCC’s recent announcement regarding the second round of this Program emphasized the FCC’s focus during this second round on improving how they choose awardees, including their intent to pay more attention to applicants offering services to hardest-hit and low-income areas.

©2022 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 116

About this Author

AMY F LERMAN regulatory transactional health care lawyer Epstein Becker Law firm

AMY F. LERMAN is an Associate in the Health Care and Life Sciences practice, in the Washington, DC, office of Epstein Becker Green. Ms. Lerman focuses her practice on a variety of regulatory and transactional health care matters, including corporate compliance, durable medical equipment, Medicare program integrity auditing and monitoring, and telehealth/telemedicine. She represents a variety of health care providers and organizations, as well as investors and other financial institutions that invest in or support the health care industry.

Ms. Lerman:

Karen Mandelbaum Healthcare Attorney Epstein Becker Green
Senior Counsel

 Karen Mandelbaum is a Senior Counsel in the Health Care and Life Sciences practice, in the Washington, DC, office of Epstein Becker Green. She has deep experience in all aspects of data privacy and protection due to her work as a privacy and security official at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and in the private sector.

Ms. Mandelbaum:

  • Advises clients on all aspects of federal and state privacy and consumer data protection laws and regulations, including, HIPAA, HITECH, and 42 CFR Part 2
  • Helps design and develop effective data governance...