FCC Telehealth GrantThis week saw the return of the Federal Communications Commission Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, a $249.95 million federal initiative that builds on last year’s $200 million grant program established as part of the CARES Act in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Rather than operating through the usual granting process, the COVID-19 Telehealth Program is instead a reimbursement program that tasks providers with submitting invoice forms and other documentation to receive compensation for telehealth-related expenses. The first round provided funding to health care providers to enable them to reach patients during the pandemic. The first round of support ran until June 2020 and supplied $200 million in funding, approving over 500 applications.

Available funding was soon exhausted in July 2020 after awards were issued to 539 applicants. The initial program paid for telecommunications equipment and services for qualifying healthcare providers. However, that initial offering of the COVID telehealth program didn’t run as smoothly as some hoped. Questions about these issues were raised:

  • The application and approval process
  • Whether approved projects received the funding
  • The disparity among states and territories.

The FCC has now responded to these complaints as they relaunched and opened the FCC Telehealth Grant for applications once again. This time, FCC has used feedback from public comments from round one 2020 to improve the process, making it more accessible and transparent. Round 2 contains many changes, including a system for rating applicants that prioritizes hard-hit and low-income areas, tribal communities, and those in provider shortage areas, as well as projects that were rejected in Round One. The current grant will be released in two phases to facilitate speedier funding to approved projects and to give other projects breathing room to submit more information to qualify in time for Round 2.

The initial program funded projects in 47 states but left out Alaska, Hawaii, and Montana. That will be corrected this time around, according to the FCC. Other changes will include rating applications with attention to:

  • Income status of the area
  • Projects that failed to get funding in the first round
  • A project that supports tribal communities or areas with a lack of healthcare access
  • Putting in place a deadline for all applications
  • Establishing a two-phase payment system so that approved projects can receive funds to put into action quickly. Those that aren’t approved will get another chance to qualify.

The application deadline is meant to ensure that projects are reviewed all simultaneously, rather than as they’re submitted, as was the case in the first round.

FCC Telehealth Grant Deadline

The Round 2 Application deadline has not yet been announced. Round 1 applicants that were not funded will reportedly be invited to submit a new application. To receive information on the application process and invitations to dedicated application training, register for the COVID-19 Telehealth email list. For additional information on Round 2, please refer to the Universal Service Administrative Company’s website.