FCC Seeks Comment on Administering Round Two of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program

In the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (“Appropriations Act”) Congress appropriated an additional $249.95 million for the Federal Communications Commission’s (“FCC” or “Commission”) COVID-19 Telehealth Program. The Program was established last year under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act to provide immediate support to health care providers by funding their telehealth and connected care services. In Round 1 of the Program, the Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau awarded $200 million in total funding commitments to 539 applications in under three (3) months. For this next round of funding, Round 2, the Commission is seeking comments on how to best evaluate applications and meet the Appropriations Act’s requirements to ensure an equitable distribution of funding.

Specifically, the FCC seeks comment on the metrics it should use to evaluate applications. For example, during Round 1 the Commission tried to target the funding to high-risk and vulnerable patients and areas hardest hit by COVID-19. The Commission asks if it should continue to prioritize providers that treat specific populations such as Tribal, low-income, or rural communities that have been deemed more at risk. Additionally, during Round 1, the Commission anticipated awarding no more than $1 million per applicant. Should the FCC continue to use $1 million as a ceiling for how much funding an applicant can receive?

Further, the Commission seeks comment on the particularities of the application and the methods and timing of filing an application. During Round 1, the Commission accepted and evaluated applications on a rolling basis until the funding was exhausted. The Commission seeks comment on whether it should instead use an application filing window to ensure that, to the extent possible, at least one applicant in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia is awarded funding. The Commission asks how long the filing window should be if used. The Commission proposes using the Universal Service Administrative Company to help with the remaining work to complete Round 1 and administer Round 2 funding. The FCC asks if it should continue to use FCC Forms 460 in determining eligibility or if there are other ways to determine eligibility of the applicants. Finally, the Commission asks generally if there determine eligibility of the applicants. Finally, the Commission asks generally if there are other improvements to make to the overall process.

Interested parties may file comments by January 19, 2021. If you would like to file comments or have questions please contact Greg Whiteaker at greg@hermanwhiteaker.com, Clare Andonov at candonov@hermanwhiteaker.com, or Hilary Rosenthal at hrosenthal@hermanwhiteaker.com.