FCC allocates $200 million to fund telehealth services for health care providers responding to COVID-19

The FCC's COVID-19 Telehealth Program seeks to tackle a significant digital divide, but only a quarter of the funds have been awarded to date


As a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress created the COVID-19 Telehealth Program, for which it has allocated $200 million in funding to assist health care providers as they work to respond to the pandemic and provide connected care services to patients in their homes or through mobile locations.

With the constraints that social distancing practices and stay-at-home orders have imposed, medical professionals from primary care physicians to therapists to hospital health care workers have turned to telecommunication technology to continue to provide services to patients.

FCC Telehealth Program addresses a major need

Telehealth has defined health care during COVID-19, including the work of hospice care and chaplains. Image: Illustration by Gabriela Velasquez/Tribune
Telehealth has defined health care during COVID-19, including the work of hospice care and chaplains. Image: Illustration by Gabriela Velasquez/Tribune

Though many health care providers were easily able to adopt telehealth services, there are providers, as well as patients, who face barriers to accessing reliable broadband services or all together lack the necessary broadband infrastructures to do so, in both rural and urban communities.

The US has a population of more than 329 million, and according to the FCCs 2019 Broadband Progress Report, more than 24 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet. A 2020 study by BroadbandNow found that 42 million Americans lack access to wired or fixed wireless broadband, while a Pew Research Center 2019 report estimated up to 163 million people may lack access to reliable broadband services.

Though an exact number cannot be agreed upon, what is abundantly clear is that there is a digital gap, and the communities in greatest need — the ones most vulnerable during this pandemic — don’t have the option of staying at home to receive consultations from their local health care providers.

The COVID-19 Telehealth Program can help some communities bridge the gap, if only temporarily.

The program will fully fund telecommunications services, information services and devices needed to provide connected care services until funds for recipients are exhausted or the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end.

To date, the FCC has approved funding for 132 health care providers in 33 states plus Washington, D.C. for a total of just over $50 million in funding.

How to APPly 

The FCC began accepting applications for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program on April 13, 2020 and will continue to accept applications on a rolling basis. The program is limited to nonprofit and public eligible health care providers that meet the standard of health care providers in section 254(h)(7)(B) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

In order to apply, interested health care providers should complete these three steps first:

  1. Obtain an eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) for each health care provider site included in an application
  2. Obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN)
  3. Register with System Award Management

All applications must be submitted through the online portal available here.

The FCC just announced its seventh round of awards. Review the full list of recipients:

Covid 19 Telehealth Program... by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

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