HHS Distributes Additional $25.5B In COVID-19 Relief To Providers


September 10, 2021 7:58 pm

HHS on Friday (Sept. 10) announced it will distribute an additional $25.5 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to health care providers, including $17 billion in a phase 4 distribution from the provider relief fund and $8.5 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds set aside for rural providers. The Biden administration has faced growing pressure from lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and providers to release the funds.

American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack praised the move. “The AHA appreciates the Administration for announcing plans to get additional critical relief funding for providers out the door. Virus cases and hospitalizations continue to climb across the country so providers will continue to need support.”

But Pollack also said hospitals hope HHS will provide additional support moving forward because the most recent funding doesn’t account for the spring and summer surges due to the Delta variant.

 Providers can apply for both sets of funds through a single application process, which will open Sept. 29, according to AHA. Providers must document revenue loss and expenses associated with the pandemic to get the phase 4 funding.

There’s nearly $44 billion left in the $178 billion provider relief fund, though HHS typically says it’s only $24 billion, excluding what’s leftover from specifics projects.

McConnell, along with four colleagues, had pressed the administration a little over a week ago to swiftly distribute the remaining provider relief and to announce by Sept. 23 whether it would change the initial spending deadline for provider relief recipients who are slammed with a new surge in COVID-19 cases.

The Republicans’ letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Sept. 2 came as lawmakers, nursing homes and hospitals also pushed the administration to immediately distribute the estimated $43.7 billion remaining in provider relief, plus the $8.5 billion lawmakers allocated under the American Rescue Plan for rural providers.

“[The provider relief fund] has served as a targeted lifeline to the hospitals and providers on the frontlines who are providing care to patients during the pandemic,” wrote McConnell and Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). “Yet, during the first seven months of this Administration, the Department has refused to issue any PRF distributions. Our question to you is simple: Why?”

The senators criticized the administration for its missing strategy to disseminate remaining provider relief and reminded Becerra that he had told the House Ways & Means Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee in June that his goal was to avoid mistakes of the past when distributing relief.

“Yet nearly three months later, no substantive changes have been made and no PRF funding has been distributed,” the senators wrote Sept. 2, a little more than a week before HHS released additional funds.

The senators had asked the administration to provide by Sept. 23 exact dates and timelines for spending what’s left of the $178 billion provider relief fund. They also asked what steps HHS had taken to identify how to spend provider relief and to identify providers in need additional relief and how it would calculate the distributions.

They also asked for details on how the administration has engaged stakeholders and acting on their feedback.

Plus, they wanted to know whether the administration would adjust the June 30 spending deadline — a delay advocated by providers and lawmakers.

“Some hospitals and health care providers continue to experience increased expenses, delayed elective surgeries, and lost revenues,” the senators wrote. “In addition, they are incurring the costs associated with vaccinating Americans, particularly partnering with the Department to fovus on those in vulnerable communities.”

Provider relief recipients who received more than $10,000 in relief before June 30, 2020 are required to submit a report of how they used their funds by Sept. 30. Those providers then have 30 days to return any unused relief to HRSA.