The Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that it was releasing an additional $20 billion in a new phase ― Phase 3 ― of the Provider Relief Fund, which was created in April by the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to help health care providers suffering economic losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Phase 3 applicants may be eligible in any of the following circumstances:
The latest phase will assist new dentists who began practicing between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2020, allowing them to apply for the first time for the fund, which provides eligible dentists a reimbursement of approximately 2% of their annual reported patient revenue.
Providers who have already received Provider Relief Fund payments can also apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the pandemic.
The HHS will accept applications for Phase 3 funding Oct. 5 through Nov. 6. Prospective applicants can register for the HHS' Oct. 15 informational webcast about Phase 3.
The earliest phases of funding were targeted at Medicare and Medi-Cal Dental (Denti-Cal) providers. Subsequent payments were opened to all dentists regardless of payer source in Phase 2, which closed Sept. 13. HHS reported that it has issued more than $100 billion in pandemic relief funding through those prior distributions.
In a poll CDA conducted in its Sept. 26 newsletter, 92% of CDA members who said they applied for funds during one of the first two PRF phases also said they received funding.
Still, a significant number of poll respondents who said they did not apply for phases 1 or 2 would therefore be eligible for Phase 3 funding. Providers who were unable to complete a Phase 2 application by the prior deadline can start a new application for funding under the Phase 3 General Distribution and will receive the same payment they would have received in Phase 2.
Richard Barnes, DDS, who runs a practice and surgery center in Visalia, submitted his application for Phase 1 funding July 9 and on July 28 received funds through two direct deposits.
“The federal grants will go a long way toward covering my costs of overhauling the infection control systems in my offices,” Dr. Barnes told CDA in August. Barnes has invested in numerous barriers, equipment and supplies to upgrade the office after consulting with and taking input from his staff.
“The application maybe was not the easiest, but I’d do it again as many times as I could for the amount of relief I received,” he said.
Recognizing that many providers continue to struggle financially from the impact of COVID-19, the HHS stated that providers may be eligible for Phase 3 payments “regardless of whether they were eligible for, applied for, received, accepted, or rejected payment from prior PRF distributions” and that the new Phase 3 General Distribution would provide “an add-on payment to account for revenue losses and expenses attributable to COVID-19.”
To potentially qualify for that add-on payment, providers who have already received payments of approximately 2% of their annual patient care revenue are expected to submit additional information during the application process ― particularly outlining any changes in operating revenues and expenses from patient care.
The HHS will review all applications to confirm that providers who received funds through prior distributions received a payment equal to approximately 2% of patient care revenue. “Applicants that have not yet received Relief Fund payments of 2 percent of patient revenue will receive a payment that, when combined with prior payments (if any), equals 2 percent of patient care revenue,” the HHS stated.
Previous general eligibility factors remain in force. For example, dentists must have a tax identification number to apply for Phase 3 funding. Complete eligibility criteria are available on the CARES Act Relief Fund page just for providers. From that page, dentists can also access the link to apply online through the Provider Relief Fund application and attestation portal.
Within 90 days of receiving Provider Relief Funds, providers must sign an attestation confirming receipt of the funds and agreeing to the terms and conditions of the payment. Fund recipients are also required to report on their use of funds as described in the terms and conditions.
HHS encourages all eligible providers to apply early for the Phase 3 distribution: “Applying early will help to expedite HHS’s review process and payment calculations, and ultimately accelerate the distribution of all payments.”