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, which was effective Jan. 1, 2017. SNFs can now apply for this funding.
The FCC’s Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) administers the universal service fund program associated with the RHCP. There is much preparatory work that must and can be done in advance of formal application of funds. You can contact the RHCP Help Desk via email or at (800) 453-1546 for questions you might have about the process. Suggested first steps for SNFs that are eligible and would like to apply for funds from the RHCP include:
· 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.
· RHCP will be announcing a training series about the application process beginning in early 2017. In the meantime, you can sign up for the RHC 101 webinar on January 17, 2017 at 2 PM ET for more information about your funding options and to learn more about the application process. You can also send an email to RHC-Assist@usac.org if you would like to be notified of upcoming training for SNFs.
Required preparatory steps can be time consuming. Some SNF management may wish to hire a consultant with expertise in the FCC’s application process if there is interest in submitting an application for funding. Feel free to also contact AHCA’s Senior Director of Not for Profit and Constituent Services, Dana Halvorson, who has been closely following this matter if you have any questions.