Smaller and rural healthcare providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be able to apply for additional relief through the Health and Human Services Department.
HHS has authorized $25.5 billion for the fourth phase of Provider Relief Fund grants made through the Health Resources and Services Administration, the department announced Friday.
Providers will be able to apply for funding starting Sept. 29, and payments will be distributed based on pandemic-related lost revenues and higher expenditures between July 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021.
"This funding critically helps healthcare providers who have endured demanding workloads and significant financial strains amidst the pandemic," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a news release. "The funding will be distributed with an eye towards equity, to ensure providers who serve our most vulnerable communities will receive the support they need."
Smaller providers under financial strain and serving vulnerable communities will have access to $17 billion of the grants. HRSA also will offer bonus payments to Medicare, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program providers because those programs typically serve patients with lower incomes and greater medical needs.
Rural Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP providers operating in regions disproportionately affected by the pandemic also will be able to apply for $8.5 billion in American Rescue Plan Act grants.
Providers can apply for the American Rescue Plan Act and Provider Relief Fund dollars via a single application. HRSA will then use providers' Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP claims data to calculate payments.
Although the deadlines to use funding and the reporting period won't change, HHS will offer providers a 60-day grace period to comply with Provider Relief Fund reporting requirements to offset challenges brought on by the delta variant and recent natural disasters. During this time, HHS will not initiate collection activities or enforcement actions for noncompliant providers.
Recipients of the latest round of Provider Relief Funds must notify HHS if they have merged with or acquired another healthcare provider during the grant spending period. These providers may have to submit to audits to ensure their relief funds were used for COVID-19 costs and patient care.