FCC Opens Application Portal for $200 Million in COVID-19 Telehealth Program But Parties Challenge Eligibility
On April 10, 2020, the FCC released a Public Notice announcing that, beginning on Monday, April 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM ET, the agency will begin accepting applications for its COVID-19 Telehealth Program through a dedicated application portal on its COVID-19 Telehealth Program webpage. The program will make available $200 million in funding under the CARES Act to help health care providers purchase telecommunications services, broadband connectivity, and connected devices necessary for providing telehealth services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Public Notice also announces that a webinar will be available on the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program webpage on Monday, April 13, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET to assist interested parties navigate the application portal and provide answers to frequently asked questions regarding the application process.
Eligibility for funding under the COVID-19 Telehealth Program is currently limited to certain public and non-profit health care providers. However, the American Hospital Association (“AHA”) recently petitioned the FCC to reconsider its decision to limit participation, arguing that there is no requirement in the CARES Act for the FCC to do so, and COVID-19 impacts everyone. AHA specifically asked the FCC to expand eligibility for the program to include all types of hospitals and other direct patient care facilities regardless of their size, location, or for-profit or not-for-profit status, including rural and urban short-term acute care, long-term acute care, critical access hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities. The Federation of American Hospitals expressed “strong support” for AHA’s petition, which remains pending at the FCC.
In the interim, applications will be accepted by the FCC on a rolling basis until all funding has been committed or the current pandemic has ended. An overview of the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program is available here, and additional guidance on the application process, including what applicants can to do to prepare for filing, is available here.