Schools and Libraries (E-Rate)

FAQs: HURRICANE RELIEF ORDERS

 

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About the FCC Emergency E-rate Assistance Order and General Questions

Q1: What does FCC Order FCC 17-139 mean for schools and libraries impacted by the recent hurricanes?

A1: The Order provides relief for two categories of applicants impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and/or Maria (Hurricanes): Directly Impacted Applicants and Indirectly Impacted Schools. Directly Impacted Applicants include schools and libraries located in counties designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as eligible for individual disaster assistance that certify that they have incurred substantial damage to E-rate eligible services and equipment as a result of the Hurricanes (and comply with other certification requirements described below). Indirectly Impacted Schools are schools that experienced an increase of 5 percent or higher in their student populations due to serving students displaced by the Hurricanes. Individual schools can be both Directly Impacted Applicants (e.g., they are located in a FEMA-designated county eligible for individual assistance and sustained substantial damage to their E-rate eligible equipment) and Indirectly Impacted Schools (e.g., their student populations increased by at least 5 percent due to serving students displaced by the Hurricanes).

The Order provides targeted support for Directly Impacted Applicants as they work to restore services to the pre-Hurricane level of functionality by making additional E-rate discounts available for the purchase of services and equipment that were disrupted, damaged, or destroyed by the Hurricanes through: (a) opening a second FY 2017 Application Window; and (b) resetting per-school, per-library five-year budgets for Category Two services. It also provides additional flexibility for Directly Impacted Applicants to request service substitutions for a service or product that has been disrupted, destroyed or rendered unusable by the Hurricanes.

For Indirectly Impacted Schools, the Order makes additional funding available to defray costs of increased demand for eligible services due to serving displaced services by permitting the schools to file a supplemental FCC Form 471 to request additional E-rate discounts.

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Q2: Specifically, what relief can I receive?

A2: If you are a school or library located in the counties designated by FEMA as eligible for individual assistance as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and/or Maria and E-rate eligible equipment was damaged, destroyed, or rendered unusable, you can apply as a Directly Impacted Applicant for support to help restore your services and equipment to pre-Hurricane levels.

Directly Impacted Applicants will automatically be eligible for a 90% discount on Category One (C1) services and 85% discount for Category Two (C2) services for FY 2017 only. All funds must be used within this funding year.

In addition, Directly Impacted Applicants will have their C2 budget reset for the full amount of their budget. If you apply for C2 funding during the Second FY 2017 Application Window, your C2 budget will restart in FY 2017. If you wait to apply for funding in FY 2018, your C2 budget will reset and restart in FY2018.

Indirectly Impacted Schools are schools that may not be located in a FEMA-designated county eligible for individual assistance, but whose student population has increased because of students displaced by the Hurricanes. If you are a school serving displaced students and your student population increased by at least 5 percent, then you may apply for additional services and products needed to serve your increased student population.

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Q3: What deadline relief can I receive?

A3: Both USAC and the Commission have granted extensions of certain deadlines for certain applicants affected by the Hurricanes.

Deadline Relief for Applicants in FEMA-designated Major Disaster Areas

Applicants in FEMA-designated major disaster areas have an additional 30 days to respond to the following:

  • Pending Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) questions about their FCC Forms 471 that are in the review process.
  • Program Integrity Assurance (PIA) questions about their FCC Forms 471 that are in the review process.
  • Any other pending USAC requests for information and/or documentation, for example, for invoice review or FCC Form 486 review.
  • Any other new USAC requests for information and/or documentation, for example, for invoice review or FCC Form 486 review.

USAC will also confirm that applicants located in these areas are able to respond to requests before a response deadline is set. If USAC is able to make a successful contact with an applicant, the applicant can indicate that they are not yet able to respond. USAC will ask for an estimate of the date when the applicants believes they will be able to respond and will contact them again on or after that date.

  • If an applicant is able to respond to questions, they should just respond either in EPC or directly to the reviewer. They can contact their reviewer (for PIA requests, invoice requests, etc.) if they have questions. If they do not have their reviewer's contact information, they can open a customer service case in EPC or call CSB at 888-203-8100 for further assistance.

Deadline Relief for Applicants in Counties that FEMA Has Designated as Eligible for Individual Assistance

Schools and libraries located in the counties designated by FEMA as eligible for individual disaster assistance as a result of the Hurricanes received a blanket waiver from the FCC on October 6, 2017 (DA 17-984).

Schools and libraries located in counties that FEMA has designated as Major Disaster Areas eligible for individual assistance will have until March 5, 2018 to submit the following forms and requests:

  • FCC Form 486.
  • FCC Form 472.
  • FCC Form 474 – The invoice deadline will be extended to March 5, 2018 for service providers who provide service to applicants covered by the order (DA 17-984).
  • Appeals and waivers – If the 60-day deadline occurred or will occur after October 6, 2017, appellants will have until March 5, 2018 to submit an appeal or waiver to USAC or the FCC. Also, appellants who have missed a 60-day deadline due to damage or disruption caused by the Hurricanes will have until March 5, 2018 to submit an appeal or waiver. Parties who rely on this waiver as a basis for filing their request for review or waiver beyond the required deadline should indicate such basis in their filing.
  • Service substitution requests.
  • Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) change requests.

Implementation deadlines for schools and libraries located in counties designated as eligible for individual assistance by FEMA are as follows:

  • The deadline for non-recurring services, other than special construction, for FY 2016 has been extended to September 30, 2018.
  • The June 30, 2018 deadline to complete special construction and light the fiber for FY 2017 may be extended to June 30, 2019 if the applicant files an FCC Form 500 certifying that the special construction project was unavoidably delayed due to damage caused by the Hurricanes.

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Q4: What is my first step as a Directly Impacted Applicant? How do I apply for the additional funding?

A4: After determining the products and services that need to be replaced, review your contracts to assess if you can purchase the products and services based on your existing contracts. If not, file an FCC Form 470 to solicit bids. Be sure to label your FCC Form 470 nickname with the prefix "H2017" so the form can be easily identified.

If you are using existing contracts, your first step is to file a new FCC Form 471. Please note you will be using the FY 2018 FCC Form 471 to file for the emergency relief in the Second FY 2017 Application Window. You must apply for additional funds during the Second FY 2017 Application Window, which will be open from November 13, 2017 at 12 noon ET through December 13, 2017 at 11:59 PM ET. Be sure to include prefix "H2017" in all form labeling and nicknames so your emergency relief forms can be identified quickly. The failure to use this prefix may result in form processing delays.

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Q5: What must a school or library certify in order to obtain benefits as a Directly Impacted Applicant?

A5: In order to qualify as a Directly Impacted Applicant, schools and libraries must certify that: (a) they are located in counties designated by FEMA as eligible for individual disaster assistance; (b) the schools or libraries incurred substantial damage to E-rate eligible services as a result of one or more of the Hurricanes; (c) any additional E-rate funding received pursuant to the Order will be used solely to restore E-rate eligible services to the level of functionality that immediately preceded the Hurricanes; (d) other resources (e.g., insurance, public assistance monies from FEMA, support from community organizations or donations) are not available to restore the E-rate eligible services to their prior functionality; and (e) additional E-rate funding requested pursuant to the Order will be returned to the Universal Service Fund if funding from other sources causes any E-rate funding disbursed to exceed the charges paid for restoring the E-rate eligible services.

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Q6: What is the deadline for submitting FCC Form 471 FY 2017 applications for the Second FY 2017 Application Window?

A6: The Second FY 2017 Application Window opens on November 13, 2017 at 12 noon ET and closes at 11:59 pm ET on December 13, 2017.

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Q7: Do I still have to file for Funding Year 2018?

A7: Yes, you must still file your applications in the regular FY 2018 application filing window for services and equipment that will be needed from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019.

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Q8: Will my FY 2018 funding be impacted because I applied for funding in the Second FY 2017 Application Window?

A8: No, your FY 2018 funding applications will not be impacted if you file for emergency relief in the Second FY 2017 Application Window. You need to file applications in the FY 2018 application filing window if you will need services and equipment for FY 2018. Note that if you apply for C2 funding during the Second FY 2017 Application Window, your C2 budget will reset and restart in FY 2017. If you wait to apply for funding in FY 2018, your C2 budget will reset and restart in FY 2018.

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Q9: I qualify as a Directly Impacted Applicant and want to take advantage of all of the different kinds of relief. How do I do this?

A9: You must follow the specific instructions for each type of specific relief. See the How to Apply Section for specific information on how to apply for the relief you are seeking.

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Q10: The FCC's Order seems to suggest that any funding I receive in excess of the cost for products and services requested in my application must be returned to USAC. Is this true?

A10: Not necessarily. If insurance or FEMA funds, for example, are earmarked or needed for general reconstruction, those funds can be used accordingly. It is important that applicants account for the funds they receive for library and school reconstruction for audit purposes and to show, more specifically, that they are not "double dipping" for the same rendered products and services. Applicants will need to retain all documentation regarding the services and equipment requested and received through this emergency relief.

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Eligibility

Q11: How do I know if I'm eligible for relief?

A11: There are two categories of applicants who are eligible to receive this emergency relief:

Directly Impacted Applicants are applicants who are who are located in counties designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as eligible for individual disaster assistance (Directly Impacted Areas) and who incurred substantial damage to E-rate eligible services and equipment as a result of one or more of the Hurricanes.

Indirectly Impacted Schools are those schools that are incurring additional costs to provide services to students displaced by the Hurricanes. To be eligible for relief as an Indirectly Impacted School, the school's student count must have increased by 5 percent or more. These applicants may or may not be located in the Directly Impacted Areas.

Both Directly Impacted Applicants and Indirectly Impacted Schools must certify that they meet the requirements set forth in Order FCC 17-139 to be eligible for relief.

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Q12: I meet the definition of both a Directly Impacted Applicant and an Indirectly Impacted School. Can I get relief as both types of entities?

A12: Yes, as long as you meet all of the criteria for a Directly Impacted Applicant and an Indirectly Impacted School, you are eligible for both types of relief.

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Q13: My school or library is not located in the area designated for individual assistance but I still sustained damage as a result of one of the Hurricanes. What relief is available to me?

A13: To be eligible for this emergency relief, you must be located an area designated by FEMA as eligible for individual assistance as result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and/or Maria, suffered substantial damage to E-rate eligible services and equipment. If you cannot meet all of these requirements, then you are not eligible for relief as a Directly Impacted Applicant under this Order. You may be eligible for relief as an Indirectly Impacted School if you are a school and your student count has increased by 5 percent or more and you are incurring an increased demand in E-rate eligible services by serving students displaced by the Hurricanes.

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Q14: I received a number of displaced students. What relief is available to me?

A14: Schools that are experiencing E-rate eligible service cost increases due to the acceptance of students displaced by Hurricanes at a level of 5 percent or more of their pre-Hurricane student populations are eligible for additional support needed to meet the unexpected increase in demand. To apply for this relief, schools must file a new FCC Form 471 in the Second FY 2017 Application Window.

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Q15: My school district's student population increased by 5 percent overall. Is this sufficient or does each school have to show an increase in population of 5 percent or more?

A15: Each school serving displaced students as a result of the Hurricanes must meet the 5 percent threshold. District level increases in student population are not sufficient to meet this eligibility requirement. It must be at the individual school level.

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Q16: My school increased its student population by over five percent of my pre-Hurricane count due to an influx of displaced students. My school is not located in an area designated by FEMA as eligible for individual assistance as result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria. Can I still seek relief?

A16: Yes. You do not have to be located in any specific county or state to be eligible as an Indirectly Impacted School. You need to demonstrate that you experienced a 5 percent or more increase in the pre-Hurricane student population at your school, which is causing an unanticipated increase in demand for E-rate eligible services. You will also need to certify that you meet the requirements set forth in Order FCC 17-139.

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Q17: My school lost students and then regained other students because of evacuation patterns in my community. What student count do I use to determine if I have experienced a 5 percent or more increase?

A17: The 5 percent or more increase in student population at your school must be a net increase compared to your pre-Hurricane student count. For example, if you had 800 students before the Hurricanes, lost 200 due to evacuations and then gained 300 displaced students, your current student count would be 900 students. This is a net increase of 100 students over your pre-Hurricane count, or 12.5%, which would make your school eligible for emergency relief.

However, if your school had 800 students before the Hurricanes, lost 300 due to evacuations, and gained 200 displaced students, your current student count would be 700 students. This is a net decline of 100 students. In this scenario, you would not qualify for the emergency relief.

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Q18: My student population increased as a result of other natural disasters other than from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Am I eligible for relief?

A18: No, you are not eligible for relief under this Order if you were impacted by another natural disaster.

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Q19: My school is providing additional services, but has not experienced a 5 percent net increase in student population due to the influx of students displaced by the Hurricanes. Is my school still eligible for relief?

A19: No. This emergency relief is only available if your increase in student population is the direct result of students displaced by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and/or Maria.

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Q20: Some of the schools in my district or libraries in my system were damaged and others were not. Can I apply for relief?

A20: Only those entities with E-rate eligible services or equipment that was damaged, destroyed, or disrupted (in this case, school, library, or non-instructional facility) and are located in an area designated by FEMA as eligible for individual disaster assistance are eligible for additional funding. Relief is not available at locations that were not damaged by the Hurricanes.

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Q21: In my district of 15 schools, 12 were completely destroyed and three were undamaged. I have a funding commitment for recurring services for all 15 schools. Can I use the entire commitment for FY 2017 even though the 12 schools are not expected to reopen this year?

A21: Because your existing commitment was to serve the student population in 15 schools, you should reduce the commitment using an FCC Form 500 to reasonably serve the number of schools and the number of students that will be open during the funding year. If the schools that will be open during the funding year have a 5 percent or more increase in student population, then these schools qualify for additional assistance as Indirectly Impacted School, and you may file an FCC Form 471 during the Second FY 2017 Application Window to receive additional funds needed for E-rate eligible services to support the influx of displaced students.

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Q22: If I don't apply in the Second FY 2017 Application Window as a Directly Impacted Applicant, am I still eligible for a higher discount?

A22: No. If you apply in FY 2018 or FY 2019 as a Directly Impacted Applicant, your discount for those funding years will be based on your actual discount rate. You will not be eligible for the automatic Category One 90 percent discount or the Category Two 85 percent discount that is applicable to funding requests filed during the Second FY 2017 Application Window.

If you are an Indirectly Impacted School, you will apply for FY 2018 or FY 2019 using your actual student counts to determine your discounts. Because your student counts will already include any displaced students, your service requests will accurately reflect the services you need.

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FCC Form 470

Q23: For the Second FY 2017 Application Window, do I have to post a new FCC Form 470?

A23: If you are seeking discounts on services that are being purchased off a contract that was entered into as a result of the previous posting of a FCC Form 470 – and that contract is still in effect and covers the goods and service that you are seeking – then you do not have to file a new Form 470. If you do not have a FCC Form 470 or contract that covers the services and equipment you are seeking, you will need to file a new FCC Form 470. If you have to file a new FCC Form 470, you only have to wait 14 days (instead of the regular 28 days) before you can evaluate the bids and select the winning bidder. Be sure to include the prefix "H2017" in all form labeling and nicknames so the FCC Forms 470 and 471 being submitted for this emergency relief can be identified quickly.

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Q24: How do I file the FCC Form 470 for the Second FY 2017 Application Window?

A24: File the forms through the E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) available at portal.usac.org. Even though you are seeking support for FY 2017, the FY 2018 FCC Form 470 will be used for the Second FY 2017 Application Window. Be sure to include the prefix "H2017" in all form labeling and nicknames so the forms can be identified quickly.

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Q25: I plan to file a new FCC Form 470. How quickly can I purchase the services requested?

A25: Applicants filing FCC Forms 470 under this relief Order only have to wait 14 days, instead of the regular 28 days, before evaluating bids, selecting a service provider, and entering into a contract.

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Q26: How do I indicate on the FCC Form 470 that the request is for a Directly Impacted Applicant or Indirectly Impacted School?

A26: For all of the forms that you file, please add the prefix, "H2017" so your form can easily be identified. The failure to include this prefix may result in a delay in processing the forms.

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Q27: If I submit a new FCC Form 470 for the Second FY 2017 Application Window, how will service providers be able to search and find bid opportunities?

A27: Once the forms are submitted in EPC, USAC will make the FCC Forms 470 available in the 2018 FCC Form 470 Download tool on the Schools and Libraries section of the USAC website. Applicants should add the "H2017" prefix to the form nickname so the requests can be quickly identified by service providers seeking bid opportunities.

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Q28: Can a state agency file an FCC Form 470 that then results in a contract that is not signed by the state? For example, can a state file a FCC Form 470 and then leave the vendor selection and contract award to the local school or library districts?

A28: No. The FCC Form 470 must be filed by the entity that will undertake the competitive bidding – including the vendor selection. That same entity must enter into a contract with winning bidder.

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Q29: The Necessary Resources certification on the FCC Forms 470 and 471 states that the applicant has secured access to all of the resources necessary to use the services purchased effectively. How can I make this certification truthfully if I do not have, for example, an approved budget or a current assessment of damage to my computers?

A29: USAC will ask for a letter or other declaration, signed by an authorized person for the school or library, describing in detail how the resources will be secured before discounted services begin, but no later than the end of the Funding Year.

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Q30: I am a Service Provider looking for applicants that need to purchase products and services destroyed or damaged by the Hurricanes. Where do I find these opportunities?

A30: To find the FCC Forms 470 for these applicants, search use the FCC Form 470 "Download 470 Information" tool on USAC's website and search for any form with the "H2017" prefix in the "Form Nickname" field.

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FCC Form 471

Q31: Can applicants ask for more funding than they did in the first FY 2017 application window?

A31: Yes. The purpose of the Second FY 2017 Application Window is to restore schools and libraries to their pre-Hurricane level of functionality. To the extent applicants experienced damage to E-rate eligible services or equipment as a result of the Hurricanes, they can request funds to restore those products and services to their functionality level prior to the Hurricanes.

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Q32: Can an entity repeat a funding request on a FY 2017 Form 471 filed in the second FY 2017 application window if the entity does not yet have a funding commitment on its first FY 2017 request?

A32: No, do not refile a funding request for the same services. Applications filed in the Second FY 2017 Application Window are limited to only requesting support for services and products needed to bring the networks back to pre-Hurricane functionality or to serve the additional student population.  

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Q33: Is the Category Two budget reset for each individual school or for its entire school district?

A33: The Category Two budget is only reset for the individual entities that qualify for relief as Directly Impacted Applicants because they are located in counties designated as eligible for individual disaster assistance and they certify that they have incurred substantial damage to E-rate eligible services and equipment as a result of one or more of the Hurricanes. If some schools in a school district are Directly Impacted Applicants and others are not, the Category Two budget is only reset for the Directly Impacted Applicants and not for the other schools.

Similarly, if some library branches in a library system are Directly Impacted Applicants and others are not, the Category Two budget is only reset for the Directly Impacted Applicants and not for the other library branches.

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Q34: Do I have to apply in the Second FY 2017 Application Window to have my Category Two budget reset?

A34: No. As a Directly Impacted Applicant, your Category Two budget will be reset in the first funding year you apply for Category Two funding, whether it is the Second FY 2017 Application Window, FY 2018, or FY 2019.

Remember that the Category Two budgets for Indirectly Impacted Schools are not reset.

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Service Providers

Q35: My service provider wants to waive my non-discounted share as a sign of support for our district. Is that OK?

A35: No. The Order does not provide any exemptions from the applicant's responsibility to pay its own non-discounted share of costs. This amount may not be donated or waived by your service providers. Additionally, the FCC gift rules are not waived by the orders providing emergency relief.

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Q36: My service provider wants to provide some additional eligible equipment and services for free or as a donation as a sign of support for our district. Is that OK?

A36: No. The FCC Order does not provide any exemptions from the gift rules that prohibit service providers from providing free services or gifts to an eligible entity when they are also providing discounted services to that same entity.

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Q37: I need my network to be up and running right now. A new service provider said they can fix it today. Can I just take their bid?

A37: No. There are only limited exemptions from the FCC rules pertaining to competitive bidding. These requirements include, in part, the requirement to conduct a free and open competitive bid process and to post a Description of Services Requested and Certification Form (FCC Form 470). However, if you are posting a new FCC Form 470, you only have to wait 14 days (instead of the usual 28 days) before evaluating bids, selecting service providers, and signing a contract. The price of the eligible goods and services must be the most heavily weighted factor in your bid evaluation. Furthermore, you must also follow all of your state and local procurement regulations.

In certain circumstances, however, applicants may change service providers by performing an operational service provider identification number (SPIN) change. An applicant may perform an operational SPIN change when the following conditions are met: (a) it is allowed under an applicant's state and local procurement rules; (b) it is allowed under the terms of any contract between the applicant and its original service provider; (c) the applicant has notified its original service provider of its intent to change service providers; (d) there is a legitimate reason to change providers (e.g., the service provider is unable to perform the requested services); and (e) the newly selected service provider received the next highest point value in the original bid evaluation. More information can be found here on USAC's web site.

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Service Substitutions

 

Document Retention

Q39: I lost all of my records during the flooding. What should I do now?

A39: Document that you lost your records due to the Hurricanes and describe the general categories of documentation that you lost. Retain that documentation for audit purposes. You may also request copies of any documentation from your service provider or other third parties. If you previously submitted documentation to USAC and you would like to retrieve the records, contact CSB and a customer service agent will attempt to retrieve the documentation for you. In Order DA 17-984, the Wireline Competition Bureau waived Section 54.516(a) of the Commission's rules with respect to records destroyed by the Hurricanes. Under this waiver, applicants and service providers in counties that have been designated by FEMA as Major Disaster Areas eligible for individual assistance will not be penalized for the failure to retain records destroyed by the Hurricanes so long as they certify that the records, and any copies of such records, were destroyed by the Hurricanes. However, applicants and service providers are responsible for obtaining such records, where available, from a third party upon request by USAC or the Commission.

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Eligible Equipment and Equipment Transfers

Q40: Some of my facilities have closed and the district is in the process of evaluating which facilities will reopen and when. If I can salvage some of my equipment, where can I use it?

A41: Equipment located at schools and libraries that have temporarily or permanently closed may be transferred to another eligible facility. The receiving facility does not need to be eligible for the same discount rate. However, you must notify USAC of the transfer by filing an FCC Form 500.

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Q41: If a consortium owned a piece of equipment located at a damaged school, can the consortium replace the equipment at an 85 percent discount?

A41: Schools and libraries located in Directly Impacted Areas (areas designated by FEMA as eligible for individual assistance) that have incurred substantial damage to E-rate eligible services as a result of one or more of the Hurricanes and that can make the certifications required by Order FCC 17-139 are eligible for emergency relief as a Directly Impacted Applicant. A Directly Impacted Applicant can apply during the Second FY 2017 Application Window for C2 funding at an 85 percent discount level to restore substantially damaged C2 equipment to pre-Hurricane levels of functionality.

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Q42: If there was no damage to eligible equipment and services as a result of the Hurricanes but there was physical damage to my school or library (e.g., part of the roof was damaged), am I eligible for relief?

A42: Only schools and libraries in Directly Impacted Areas with substantial damage to E-rate eligible services as a result of one or more of the Hurricanes are eligible for the emergency relief provided by the Order. This emergency relief makes additional E-rate discounts available only for the purchase of E-rate eligible services and equipment that were disrupted, damaged, or destroyed by the Hurricanes.

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Eligible Services

Q43: If a school had an old router that was damaged, can the school replace the router for one with more advanced capabilities?

A43: Because of changes in technology, a new router may have the capability for additional services that did not exist in the older router. In returning to pre-Hurricane functionality levels, a Directly Impacted Applicant can purchase a router with additional capabilities but not additional services. For example, an equivalent router may have a slot where an optional video card may be installed, but an applicant may not receive funding for a video card that would provide additional services.

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