The FCC has voted 4-0 to approve the framework for a second round of its COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
That is the additional $250 million (technically $295.95 million) Congress allocated for the program in the CARES Act.
In round one, the FCC allocated $200 million of CARES Act funding for 539 applications from 47 states plus D.C.
The FCC said the application window for the new funding round is expected to open by the end of April. The FCC will evaluate all the applications collectively, rather than on a rolling basis. Money will be going to every state, territory and D.C.
"This past year has proven, without a doubt, that telehealth technology is critical to helping address inequities in access to health care services," said acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel. "With today’s unanimous approval of the Report and Order, the FCC remains ready to address these challenges head on."
“I am pleased to approve today’s Order, which extends the COVID-19 telehealth program and adds important transparency to the process," said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. "In this Order, applicants and other interested parties will be able to see with particularity how their proposals will be evaluated. I am especially pleased, given the disproportionate burden low-income Americans have borne during this pandemic, that we will give significant weight to applications proposing to serve low-income communities."
Starks was particularly pleased that the FCC will direct that the poverty rate of both the county and the census tract will be taken into account when vetting healthcare applicants for the money. Initially it was only going to be at the county level, he said, and thanked his colleagues for agreeing to the change. "In assessing an application, if it would receive more points using the census tract poverty rate instead of the county measure (or vice versa), USAC will award the application the higher points available between the two," he said. " Today’s Order ensures that these areas will not be overlooked," he said.
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