RHC Program Updates

FY2020 Funding Applications and USAC Webinar

USAC announced in its October 2020 newsletter that RHC started issuing decisions on FY2020 funding requests and will continue to do so on a rolling basis.

USAC is also hosting a FY2020 Update Webinar on Thursday, October 22nd at 2:00pm ET.  During this webinar, USAC will go over FY2020 important reminders, best practices, and next steps once you receive a funding request decision.  USAC has requested attendees submit questions ahead of time when registering.  Click here to register for the webinar.

FCC Form 460 and Creating a Consortia

With major changes in the RHC Telecom Program’s rural and urban rates, the HCF program is a great choice for many applicants this upcoming funding year (2021).  To maximize funding under the HCF program, HCPs are encouraged to create consortia.

A consortium is a group of two or more health care providers (HCPs), or health care provider locations, that choose to request support through a single application.  A consortium does not require collaboration between multiple independent health care entities.  Both rural and non-rural sites are eligible for funding as part of a consortium as long as a majority (i.e., more than 50%) of the consortium members are rural sites. For example, if a consortium has five sites, at least three must be in rural areas.

USAC has a Consortium webpage with helpful tip sheets, including a Consortia: Getting Started tip sheet that answers questions about members of a consortium, the responsibilities of consortium members, and other helpful tips like membership is not dependent on HCP locations; member sites from different states can be part of a consortium.

In its Consortia: Forming a Consortium tip sheet, USAC details the Preliminary Steps for forming a Consortia, starting with ensuring each participating HCP site has an approved FCC Form 460 on file with USAC.

If you have not already, remember to complete your FCC Form 460 to determine eligibility.  You can submit your FCC Form 460 at any time during the funding year and are encouraged to do this as soon as possible as the process can take time with USAC to complete.

Click here to watch USAC’s RHC Eligibility Forms webinar for information on how to file and FCC Form 460, or review this step-by-step guide to check if your HCP site has previously registered with the RHC Program and has an approved FCC Form 460 on-file.

FCC Extends Waivers for COVID-19 Relief

On September 3, 2020, the FCC released an Order, further extending certain waivers adopted in March for COVID-19 relief. Due to ongoing disruptions caused by COVID-19 to HCPs and the need for robust connectivity, the FCC extended the gift rule and information request deadline waivers through December 31, 2020. These waivers were originally set to expire on September 30, 2020.

Here are some RHC Program updates and reminders:
  • REMINDER: USAC Announced Important Dates for FY2021 on its website.
    • July 1st, 2020: First day applicants may submit Requests for Services (FCC Forms 461 or 465)
    • January 4th, 2021 – April 1st, 2021: Funding Request Filing Window Period (FCC Forms 462 or 466)
    • October 28th, 2022: Invoicing Deadline (FCC Form 463 and Telecom Invoice)
  • MY PORTAL: Now is a great time to review your My Portal Account Holders.  USAC recommends at least one secondary account holder per HCP.
    • USAC has created guides for Primary Account Holders with instructions for additional account holders in My Portal.
    • The process is not the same for both programs.
      • Click here for the Telecom Program Account Holder Guide.
      • Click here for the HCF Program Account Holder Guide
  • FCC ANNOUNCED AN INCREASE IN RURAL HEALTHCARE PROGRAM FUNDS FOR FY2020
    • On June 30th, 2020 the FCC released a Public Notice announcing the total support available for FY2020 will be $802.74 million.
  • FCC EXTENDS FY2019 INVOICING DEADLINE
    • The FCC released an Order providing relief to specific HCPs and service providers who received FY2019 FCLs after or within 180 days of the invoice filing deadline.
    • The Order allows these entities to submit invoices to USAC within 180 days from the later of the release date of this Order or the issuance of an FCL by USAC.
    • The HCPs that fall into this waiver category  identified by USAC to-date are listed in the Appendix.
  • WEBINARS TO WATCH:
    • USAC hosted a FY2021 Kick Off Webinar on Wednesday, July 15th at 2PM EST, click here to view recording.
      • This webinar is aimed to help new and returning HCP applicants prepare for FY2021 and cover important dates, new tools, and best practices for a successful application process.
    • USAC hosted an HCF Program FCC Form 461 Best Practices webinar on Wednesday, July 22nd at 2PM EST, click here to view recording.
      • This webinar focuses on the FCC Form 461 process and competitive bidding.
    • USAC hosted a Telecom Program FCC Form 465 Best Practices webinar on Wednesday, July 29th at 2PM EST, click here to view recording.
      • This webinar focuses on the FCC Form 465 process and competitive bidding.
New USAC Tools:
  • The USAC Telecom Program Rates Database is now available – As required by the 2019 FCC Report and Order, beginning in FY2021, USAC will determine the urban and rural rates for each eligible service in each state and include the rates in a database publicly available on its website. HCP’s submitting funding requests must use the urban and rural rates listed in USAC’s database.
    • USAC published a helpful “How to Use the Rates Database” handout.
  • USAC has released its Rurality Tier Search Tool – This tool can be used by HCP’s to search by HCP site location the applicable rurality tier for its HCP site(s).
    • The rurality tier is used to calculate the “rural rate” for eligible telecommunications services under the Telecom Program and, in the event eligible funding requests exceed the amount of available funding for a particular funding year, is a factor in determining the prioritization of funding.
    • USAC published a helpful “How to Use the Rurality Tier Search Tool” handout.

The ENA Healthcare team is actively reviewing both the telecom rates database and the rurality search tool and will work proactively with ENA customers using the Telecom Program to discuss possible impacts on 2021 funding.

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