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FCC Funding Opportunity for Telehealth Equipment – Portal Open

Telehealth is becoming a necessary practice for healthcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, not all providers have the means to institute a telehealth program. In order to help non-profit and public healthcare providers utilize telehealth, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES Act) set aside $200 million in funds for telehealth equipment, broadband connectivity, and information services. The FCC has recently released a guidance document that describes how eligible providers can apply for this “COVID-19 Telehealth Program” and the portal for applying will open today, April 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM ET.

Eligible providers include:

  • Post-secondary educational institutions offering health care instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools;
  • Community health centers or health centers providing health care to migrants;
  • Local health departments or agencies;
  • Community mental health centers;
  • Not-for-profit hospitals;
  • Rural health clinics;
  • Skilled nursing facilities; or
  • Consortia of health care providers consisting of one or more entities above.

These providers can apply for up to $1 million each to purchase “telecommunications, information services, and connected devices to provide connected care services in response to the coronavirus pandemic.” Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis so providers must apply for these funds as soon as they are available. The FCC has also indicated that it plans to target applicants serving high-risk and vulnerable patients, although the telehealth resources need not be directly related to treating COVID-19, and that applicants should indicate if they were under pre-existing strain (e.g., large underserved or low-income patient population; health care provider shortages; rural hospital closures; limited broadband access and/or Internet adoption). Other notable details of this funding opportunity include:

  • The requirement to conduct competitive bidding for covered purchases will be waived for covered purchases, although providers should be cost-conscious;
  • The standard prohibition on receiving gifts above nominal value will also be waived for items related to telehealth;
  • Providers may NOT receive these funds and other federal or state funds that cover the exact same services/devices;
  • Funding may NOT be used for health care provider administrative costs associated with participating in the COVID-19 telehealth Program (e.g., costs associated with completing COVID-19 Telehealth Program applications and other submissions) or other miscellaneous expenses (e.g., doctor and staff time spent on the COVID-19 Telehealth Program and outreach); and
  • Eligible providers who have purchased telecommunications and/or telemedicine equipment after March 13 can apply for funding support for those and any subsequent purchases.

The application is available starting April 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM ET. These funds are first-come, first-served so providers should follow the following steps to be sure they are ready to apply:

  • Obtain an eligibility determination from FCC to receive funds (if a provider does not have one already, they can file an FCC Form 460 with the Universal Service Administration Company at the same time they submit their application for the COVID-19 Telehealth Program);
  • Obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN); and
  • Register with System for Award Management (will help the award be processed quickly but can be done concurrently with applying for the telehealth funds).

The FCC will make an online portal available for completing and submitting applications and requests for funding here. Applicants can also use this link to find a webinar on April 13, 2020 at 11:00 AM ET to assist interested parties in navigating the application portal and answering FAQs about the program. More information will be posted on the Commission’s Keep Americans Connected page.

If you have any questions about the COVID-19 Telehealth Program please reach out to a BMD healthcare attorney.

UPDATE: Governor Dewine Signs HB 606 Granting Short Window of Immunity from COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Ohio General Assembly, in Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606, is in the final stages of passing a law that will prohibit lawsuits seeking damages from COVID-19. This includes injury, death, or loss to person or property if the lawsuits are based, in whole or in part, on the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the coronavirus, unless the defendant in the lawsuit acted intentionally or recklessly. In circumstances where this immunity does not apply, H.B. 606 prohibits such claims being aggregated and brought as a class action.

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.

FCC Adds $198 Million to Strengthen Telehealth for Rural Healthcare Providers

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has added an additional $198 million in funding to its Rural Health Care Program. These funds will be used to increase broadband services and telecommunications to bolster telehealth/telemedicine services for rural healthcare providers. Funding for rural healthcare providers was initially capped at $605 million in 2020, but the added funds will now allow the FCC to provide over $800 million to eligible providers.

Finding Opportunity in Adversity: Optimism for the Construction Industry

Looking for good news? If so, you are not alone. Aside from the collective mental, physical and emotional human toll imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, entire sectors of the economy have been ravaged, and old, familiar ways of doing business have been disrupted. Although deemed essential, the construction industry has not been immune to interruption and uncertainty during these unprecedented times. Amid new health and safety concerns, coupled with financial uncertainty, progress on projects has slowed, and the start dates for a number of new projects slated to begin in 2020 have been deferred. However, resilience has always been a trademark of contractors, subcontractors and other industry professionals. Reports indicate that while the construction industry lost more than one million jobs February through April, at least 600,000 of those jobs had been gained back by the end of June.

Yard Sign Do’s and Don’ts: How to Avoid Legal Challenges to Municipal Sign Codes this Election Season

As the nation heads into the tail end of the 2020 general election, municipalities will inevitably face challenges as they seek to regulate the seasonal proliferation of yard signs on residential property. While the matter may seem trifling, a seemingly benign yet content-based sign ordinance can result in significant legal exposure for municipalities that have not heeded recent Supreme Court decisions on content neutrality.