FCC to open next round of COVID-19 telehealth program applications

FCC retools COVID-19 telehealth program application process

The Federal Communications Commission will begin accepting applications for the second round of its COVID-19 telehealth program on April 29, the agency announced Thursday.

The initial application window for the program, under which the FCC will distribute at least $150 million of the $249.95 million allocated by Congress, will close the following week on May 6. The agency will award funding in two phases, so that applicants have the opportunity to provide the agency with supplemental information if they’re denied funding during the first phase.

“The FCC is dedicated to moving quickly to review and approve applications for this funding to support healthcare providers and patients across the country,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, in a statement Thursday.

The FCC’s COVID-19 telehealth program, established by Congress as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security—or CARES—Act last year, is designed to provide healthcare organizations with funds to purchase telecommunications equipment, information-technology services and devices needed to offer telehealth services during the pandemic.

In that first funding round, which opened for applications on a rolling basis in April 2020 and closed in June, the FCC distributed $200 million to 539 organizations.

Congress added an additional $249.95 million to support the program as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which will fund the second round of the program.

It’s a reimbursement program, which means that although the FCC commits a certain amount of funding to an organization upon selecting their application, the organization must later submit invoices for the FCC to reimburse. As of January, the FCC had distributed $119.5 million of the $200 million it committed during the program’s first round, as it continued to wait for providers to submit invoices.

The FCC in March voted to formalize new procedures and criteria for the COVID-19 telehealth program, after Congress called for increased transparency.

Under the new procedures, the FCC said it will consider whether the applicant is in an area with a shortage of healthcare providers, a low-income area, a tribal community or a region hardest-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as whether the application is tied to an organization that went unfunded during the first round of the program.

The FCC plans for each state and territory to have at least one organization that receives funding from one of the two program funding rounds.

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Marie Maynes
Marie Maynes is a Sports enthusiast and writes for the Sports section of ANH.