FCC Launches 2nd Round of COVID-19 Telehealth Program With 62 Awards

The FCC has announced 62 award winners – one in each state and territory and Washington DC – for the first round of the newly revamped COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

By Eric Wicklund

August 27, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission has approved 62 projects for funding under the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.

The projects are the first to be approved in the second round of the program, which used up its $200 million budget in 2020 to provide assistance to 539 connected health projects across the country. At the end of last year, Congress added almost $250 million in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 to reboot the effort, alongside pledges from the FCC to make the program more transparent.

Among the new rules: The first round consists of one recipient from each state and territory and the District of Columbia.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to healthcare has proven to be not only a national issue, but also a local issue, and it is imperative that every community is given the tools to access this care as safely and effectively as possible,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in an August 26 press release. “The FCC is committed to ensuring that every state and territory in the United States receive funding as part of this program.”

“The FCC took action earlier this year to establish a system for rating applications in Round 2, factoring in the hardest hit and lowest income areas, Tribal communities, and previously unfunded states and territories,” she added. “Now even more doctors and nurses in every corner of our country can establish or expand telehealth services to support patients and their families.”

This first round of projects represents the highest-scoring applications from each state and territory, as well as the District of Columbia, under a new rating system created in the wake of last year’s program. Altogether, $41.98 million is being expended in this round.

According to the FCC, the organization’s Wireline Competition Bureau will next issue awards to the next highest-scoring applications regardless of where they’re located, up until at least $150 million is used. After that, the FCC will give the remaining applications an opportunity to revise their proposals to better qualify for the remaining award money.

The money is designated for “telecommunications services, information services, and connected devices necessary to enable telehealth during the COVID19 pandemic.”

The COVID-19 Telehealth Program isn’t a grant program, but a reimbursement program. To receive disbursements, healthcare providers are required to submit an invoicing form and supporting documentation to receive reimbursement for eligible telemedicine and mHealth expenses and services.

The announcement comes roughly two months after the FCC announced 36 award recipients for its $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program, a similar effort to expand telehealth and remote patient monitoring access to underserved populations, including veterans and those is rural areas. To date, 59 programs have been approved to receive about $57 million in funding.

A list of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program award recipients can be found here.