The Rural Health Care Connectivity Act of 2015 was passed by Congress and enacted into law on June 22, 2016. The Act authorized eligible rural not for profit skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) to participate in the Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) to assist in payment for broadband expansion and expenses to facilitate and deliver health care services. It also mandated the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow applications by eligible SNFs within 180 days of enactment. The FCC’s Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) administers the universal service fund from the RHCP.
According to a recent press release from USAC, RHCP funding requests reached a historic high of $377.64 million in Funding Year (FY) 2015, and demand may exceed the $400 million funding cap in FY2016 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017). To fairly distribute future RHCP funding if the funding cap is reached, the FCC just announced two additional filing window periods for FY2016. The next filing window period is from September 1 - November 30, 2016. If funding remains, the third filing window period will be from February 1 - April 30, 2017. Eligible health care providers are strongly encouraged to submit their funding requests by November 30, 2016, the last day of the upcoming FY2016 filing window period. For questions about the filing window periods, you can contact the RHCP Help Desk via email or at (800) 453-1546.
Suggested first steps are below for SNFs who are eligible and would like to apply for funds from the RHCP to allow reduced rates for broadband expenses:
- Become familiar with the overview of the RHCP and determine eligibility by visiting the USAC web site.
- Become familiar with the specific steps required in the application process.
- Sign up on USAC’s listserv to receive ongoing updates of activity and timeline requirements.
- Register for and listen in on the September 8th USAC New Funding Request Filing Window Periods + Other RHC Program Updates webinar being held at 2pm ET.
- Register for and listen in on the October 11th RHCP 101: Intro to the RHCP webinar being held at 2pm ET.