Three federal laws enacted in 2020 created and funded a $186.5 billion Provider Relief Fund (PRF) to help hospitals and other health care providers manage the financial burden imposed by COVID-19. While initial distributions from the PRF reached hospitals quickly in early 2020, additional distributions have been both slow and fraught with challenging deadlines, unclear criteria for applications, and uncertain reporting requirements.
CHA continues to engage at every level to ensure California’s hospitals get their fair share. Sharing our concerns, on Aug. 27 Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra calling for the release of the balance of the PRF to assist hospitals with the current surge of patients.
On Aug. 26, 43 senators, including California Sens. Feinstein and Alex Padilla, sent a letter to Becerra. Earlier this month, at the request of CHA and our member hospitals, 40 members of the California delegation, led by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-5), signed a similar letter calling for the immediate release of the remaining PRF funds.
CHA is also supporting bipartisan, bicameral legislation, the Provider Relief Fund Deadline Extension Act (S. 2493/H.R. 4735), which would offer hospitals the financial flexibility that will be crucial to continued pandemic response. CHA issued an alert encouraging hospitals to ask their federal representatives to co-sponsor the bills.
During the debate on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, CHA and our national partners at the American Hospital Association strongly and successfully opposed proposals to claw back unspent PRF money to offset the cost of infrastructure spending. As Congress works on additional spending bills, that fight will continue.
To demonstrate the clear needs of California’s hospitals, CHA continues to share with policymakers the infographics showing that California’s hospitals have not received their fair share of PRF money both in terms of the way funds were distributed early in the pandemic and the fact that the surge of cases in California came much later than in other parts of the country.
Further, CHA regularly engages with Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) staff on two fronts related to the PRF. First, staff continue to seek clarity on PRF reporting requirements and provide technical guidance to the agency. This effort is based on our letter to the HRSA, the agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that manages the PRF. The letter provided recommendations for resolving key, outstanding issues with the reporting guidance. Second, CHA staff are working with HRSA on behalf of members whose applications for Phase 3 PRF funding have not been processed to expedite a decision.