HRSA opens applications for $25.5B of new provider pandemic relief funds

hospital money
The online application portal will be open through Oct. 26. Relief funds for approved rural care providers will likely come in November while operating revenue and expense compensation is set to land in December, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. (Getty/PraewBlackWhile)

Applications are now open for hospitals and other healthcare providers seeking part of the $25.5 billion in pandemic relief funds recently announced by the Biden administration.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) said its online application portal will be open through Oct. 26, but encouraged providers to begin their application “as soon as possible” due to mandatory validation checks potentially slowing down the process.

The $25.5 billion is comprised of the $17 billion Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 (PRF)—part of last year’s $178 billion pot passed under the CARES Act—and $8.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed earlier this year.

PRF funds will focus on recouping changes in operating revenues and expenses with bonus payments based on the amount and type of Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) services provided from July 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, according to the agency. Of note, smaller providers will be reimbursed for a high percentage of the changes in their operations.

ARPA funds, meanwhile, aim to compensate providers based on the amount and type of Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP services they provided to rural patients between Jan. 1, 2019 and Sept. 30, 2020.

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“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,” Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement on the programs released earlier this month.

Providers can receive funds from both PRF and ARPA, according to HRSA, and can apply to the different programs through a single application.

HRSA said it is planning to begin distribution of the ARPA funds in mid-to-late November and the PRF funds in early-to-mid December.

The agency will also be hosting four webinar sessions to help providers navigate the application portal, the first of which is being held Sept. 30 at 3:00 p.m. ET.

This $22.5 billion comes roughly a year after the previous distribution of pandemic relief funding for healthcare providers.

Prior to its announcement, provider groups were clamoring for a new and expeditious wave of support as resurging COVID-19 put the squeeze on their volumes, revenues and costs. These calls were backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators in a Sept. 2 letter to Becerra.