COVID-19 Update: USAC remains open for business—Washington, DC office closed. Learn more about USF program responses

COVID-19 Response

The FCC recognizes that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic represents extraordinary and unprecedented public health challenges, and has taken the necessary steps to provide relief to health care providers (HCPs) through the release of Orders and Waivers.

While USAC’s Washington, DC office is closed, the RHC Division remains fully operational. RHC Program staff will work remotely and continue to process and review forms and implement guidance from the FCC. We will continue to update this page and announcements with information about FCC releases.

USAC, the FCC, and other Federal government programs have taken the necessary steps to provide relief to health care providers (HCPs) through new orders and waivers. Support for Rural Health Care providers includes:

  • Additional time. The FCC extended the FY2020 RHC Program application filing window and granted additional relief to RHC Program participants by extending invoicing deadlines/information request deadlines and allowing participants to carry over evergreen contacts from FY2019.
  • More flexibility. The FCC has waived the gift rules allowing service providers to offer, and HCPs to solicit or accept, free upgrades, connected devices, networking equipment, services, and other things of value.
  • More funding opportunities. The FCC has created more funding opportunities through the COVID-19 Telehealth Program (no longer accepting applications as of June 25, 2020) and Connected Care Pilot in addition to the rollover of unused funds from prior years to cover the higher demand for FY2019.

On September 3, 2020, the FCC released PN DA 20-1021, further extending some waivers granted in March for COVID-19 relief. Due to ongoing disruptions caused by COVID-19 to program participants and the need for robust connectivity, the FCC has extended the gift rule waiver and information request deadline to December 31, 2020. These waivers were originally set to expire on September 30, 2020.

Report and Order 20-44: $100 Million Connected Care Pilot Program; $200 Million COVID-19 Telehealth Program

On April 2, 2020 the FCC adopted Report and Order FCC 20-44 establishing a $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program to help health care providers in response to the novel Coronavirus 2019 disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and also a longer-term Connected Care Pilot Program furnish connected care services to patients at their homes or mobile locations.

The Connected Care Pilot Program will provide up to $100 million of support over a three-year period from the Universal Service Fund (USF) to help defray health care providers’ costs of providing connected care services and/or equipment and to help assess how the USF can be used in the long-term to support telehealth.

A separate COVID-19 Telehealth Program, which is no longer accepting applications, was funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and provided immediate support to health care providers responding to the pandemic by providing funding for telecommunications services, information services, and devices to enable the provision of connected care services. Visit the FCC COVID-19 Telehealth Program website for complete information about the program. Please note that the COVID-19 Telehealth Program was limited to nonprofit and public eligible health care providers.

July 8, 2020 –  The FCC WCB approved the final set of funding applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program. Since the beginning of the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, the agency has approved 539 funding applications in 47 states plus Washington, D.C. and Guam for a total of $200 million in funding—the amount of money provided by Congress in the CARES Act. No further applications will be accepted.

June 25, 2020 – The FCC WCB released Public Notice DA 20-667, announcing that it is no longer accepting applications to the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

Connected Care Pilot Program

The Connected Care Pilot Program (CC Pilot Program) will make available up to $100 million over a three-year period, and will provide funding to cover 85% of the eligible costs of broadband connectivity, network equipment, and information services to provide connected care services to the intended patient population. The CC Pilot Program is funded through the USF using a separate budget from existing USF support programs. The CC Pilot Program is focused on supporting pilot projects that primarily benefit low-income Americans and Veterans. The three explicit goals for the CC Pilot Program are to: 1) improve health outcomes through connected care, 2) reduce health care costs for patients, facilities and the health care system and 3) support the trend toward connected care everywhere.

USAC will determine eligibility for the program using the existing FCC Form 460. Participants can be located in rural and non-rural areas, but must meet the other RHC Program eligibility requirements. Eligible health care providers can then submit applications for the CC Pilot Program.

The Bureau will announce the deadline for filing pilot project proposals and instructions for filing project proposals with the FCC in a subsequent public notice. CC Pilot Program applications will be due 45 days from OMB approval of the information collection, or by July 31, 2020, whichever comes later. WCB will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing receipt of OMB approval.

Successful applicants will be able to demonstrate that they have a strategic plan for delivering connected care services and explain how the program will accomplish their objectives while leveraging existing resources. Selected applicants may also participate in the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and in the other RHC Programs as long as they are not applying for duplicate services or equipment.

Approved CC Pilot Program participants will have up to six months from the date of their initial funding commitment letter from USAC to organize and start their pilot projects (including, but not limited to procuring eligible services or network equipment), and up to six months after the funding end date on their final funding commitment letters to complete any necessary administrative tasks.