The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau has issued a request for comments on administering Round 2 of the COVID-19 Telehealth Program.
The $249.95 million the program will receive from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 is more than the $200 million that was allocated to the program in the first round. The Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed by the president on December 27.
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program is aimed at helping communities fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The press release says that that FCC is seeking “public input on the metrics the Commission should use to evaluate applications for this round of funding, how the Commission should treat applications that were filed during the initial funding round provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and additional program improvements.”
Comments are due on January 19.
The initial COVID-19 Telehealth Program was established on April 2, 2020. Recipients were allowed to use funding for telecommunications services, information services and connected devices. The funding, which ran out in July, was targeted at the areas hardest hit by the pandemic.
The press release notes some of the issues that commenters are asked to address:
- Should we target funding to hardest hit areas and how should the “hardest hit” areas be defined?
- Given the changing landscape of the pandemic in recent months, how should previous, unfunded applications be addressed?
- And are there lessons learned from the initial round of the program that could lead to program improvements?
The first round of COVID-19 Telehealth Program funding ended in July. The initial funding was used for 539 applications in 47 states, Washington, DC and Guam. Some awards were for as much as $1 million, while others were considerably smaller.