The Congresswoman has Repeatedly Pushed HHS to Release this Emergency Funding, Initially Made Possible through the CARES Act in March 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. — After repeatedly pushing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release remaining Provider Relief Fund (PRF) dollars to American healthcare providers, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger today announced $163 million in PRF funding to support Virginia’s healthcare workforce and patients as they combat COVID-19 and its variants.
Today’s award of $163 million will help Virginia healthcare providers recruit and retain staff, purchase masks and other supplies, modernize existing facilities, and cover other expenses related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to HHS, payments to individual providers will begin later this week.
“This announcement is long overdue. For the thousands of Virginia men and women working in our hospitals and clinics, the past two years have been marked by an ever-raging battle to keep their patients safe and healthy, protect their families, and make sure their doors remain open. In the face of the continued threats posed by the Delta and Omicron variants, delays in Provider Relief Fund payments only make their lives more difficult,” said Spanberger. “I would like to thank the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for announcing $163 million for Virginia today — but we are nowhere near finished in our response to the pandemic and in our efforts to keep our doctors, nurses, hospital staff, and assisted living employees safe. In the weeks and months ahead, I will keep working to give additional certainty to our healthcare providers, cut red tape, and provide additional flexibility so providers can put this funding to work.”
Congress created the PRF as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March 2020. However, the PRF distribution process has been plagued by several issues that have slowed distribution — including changing guidance, confusing tax information, burdensome restrictions, and sporadic technical problems. Before today, no PRF dollars had been released in 2021 to compensate providers for expenses associated with the Delta Variant surge over the summer.
In response to delays in this funding going to healthcare providers and concerns expressed by Virginia hospitals and nursing homes, Spanberger consistently pressed HHS to release this funding.
In April 2021, she led a 59-Member, bipartisan effort in calling on HHS to quickly distribute remaining provider relief funds to senior living facility operators in Central Virginia and across the country. And last month, Spanberger introduced bipartisan legislation that would ensure remaining PRF dollars are distributed to healthcare providers seeking to protect their workforce and patients from recent COVID-19 surges.
“We are grateful to the Biden Administration for the distribution from the Provider Relief Fund. It will allow nursing homes to continue to protect seniors from the COVID-19 virus. Representative Spanberger’s Provider Relief Improvement Act will further ensure that continued funding will be provided in a timely manner. When the pandemic started no one could have envisioned that it would last this long and we cannot let our guard down,” said Keith Hare, President & CEO, Virginia Health Care Association & Virginia Center for Assisted Living. “Representative Spanberger has advocated for resources to protect seniors from day one. This legislation is another example of her leadership.”
“The Virginia Rural Health Association greatly appreciates Rep. Spanberger’s advocacy for the release of these funds,” said Beth O’Connor, Executive Director, Virginia Rural Health Association. “Rural health care providers need these awards to combat COVID-19, protect their workforce, and ensure access to care for their patients. Congress should move quickly to pass Rep. Spanberger’s bipartisan Provider Relief Fund Improvement Act to distribute the remainder of the Provider Relief Fund as quickly as possible and extend the deadline to ensure rural providers have sufficient flexibility to use these funds to fight COVID-19 in their communities.”
Spanberger’s Provider Relief Fund Improvement Act would require HHS to distribute remaining PRF dollars by March 31, 2022, relieve the bureaucratic burdens associated with shifting reporting deadlines, and allow PRF recipients to spend their awards on investments in workplace and employee safety. These provisions would give much-needed certainty to U.S. healthcare providers about forthcoming distribution timelines and give providers renewed flexibility in how they use this funding.
Specifically, her bipartisan Provider Relief Fund Improvement Act would:
- Extend the deadline for Providers to use their awards through the end of the Public Health Emergency. The legislation would eliminate the bureaucratic hassle of funds going back and forth between the government and providers at quarterly reporting deadlines.
- Require HHS to refund to providers any dollars returned to HHS at the first June 30, 2021 reporting deadline.
- Require HHS to distribute remaining PRF dollars by March 31, 2022.
- Clarify that providers can use PRF funds for workplace and safety provisions. This guidance would include secure locks, mitigation of risk of violence mechanisms like panic buttons, and trauma support for personnel.