The Local ISP's Guide to the CARES Act

Local ISPs: we wrote this guide for you in the hopes it helps in some way as you navigate the new reality. Please keep fighting the good fight to get and keep your subscribers connected to strong internet during this unprecedented crisis, and ping us if we can be of any further help.

As America deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now evident to the majority of the country that local ISPs like you provide an essential service. It’s critical that you are able to perform through this stressful period. Despite providing an essential service, some of your customers may not be able to pay during this crisis. The U.S. federal government’s new program may be able to help get you through the next couple months.

On March 27 2020, Congress passed and the President signed into law the ‘‘Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’’ or the ‘‘CARES Act”. The legislation is a national effort to provide emergency financial relief to individuals and small businesses struggling from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As you’re busy making sure your networks are performing for your subscribers, Ready wants to provide you with highlights relevant to local ISPs from the $2.2 Trillion legislation.

Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans and Grants

The CARES Act authorized SBA loans and grants to cover COVID-19-impacted small businesses (including sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors). These loans and grants may be used for sole proprietor payroll costs, mortgage interest payments, rent, utilities, or other repayment obligations. Subject to certain conditions, loan amounts may be forgivable. The SBA has set up various programs to facilitate the loans and grants, which ISPs may be eligible for, such as the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.

Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is authorized with up to $349 billion USD in SBA loans for small businesses harmed by COVID-19. The program will offer loans of up to $10 million at 1% interest to companies and nonprofits with fewer than 500 workers so they can cover two months of payroll and overhead expenses. If you retain your team and do not cut wages, the government will forgive most or all of your loan, and repay your lender. Check out SBA’s information sheet for details.

ISPs may apply, and use loan proceeds for payroll costs (including sole proprietor compensation), mortgage interest payments, rent, and utilities. Key dates to keep in mind:

  • April 3, 2020: small businesses and sole proprietors can apply
  • April 10, 2020: independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply
  • Applications will be open until the funding cap is met or June 30, 2020, so we encourage you to apply as soon as possible. We do expect the government to increase the funding cap if demand for PPP loans outstrips supply.

You will need to complete this program sample form once you choose one or more participating SBA-approved lenders. You will also need to certify an economic need for the loan, along with supporting documentation. Ready recommends applying to more than one lender.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan

The SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program provides emergency loan advances of up to $10,000 USD to small businesses harmed by COVID-19. To access the advance, you may apply here. The advance would not need to be repaid. Additionally, SBA is offering COVID-disaster designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to certain small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19.

Telehealth in The CARES Act

The CARES Act allows Medicare to significantly expand access to telehealth. 

  • Patients in all settings can receive telehealth services and physicians can provide telehealth from their home. 
  • The Act greatly expands covered services provided to patients. The full list can be reviewed here
  • The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will allow physicians to prescribe controlled substances based on telehealth visits during the pandemic. 
  • During the pandemic the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) which enforces HIPAA has relaxed enforcement of compliance on the types of technology physicians use to administer care. 

We believe the expansion of services during the pandemic is a systemic shift in telehealth and expect the new rules will stick. Conversely, the relaxed enforcement of HIPAA compliance in an age of heightened cybersecurity will roll back as soon as the crisis subsides. Local ISPs enabling telehealth services must ensure their networks are ready for advanced telehealth. 

In addition to expanding scope of telehealth, The CARES Act provides for increased funding to telehealth and remote care technologies, which include the following sources:

  • $27 billion for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for COVID-19 activities, including telehealth access and infrastructure.
  • Over $1 billion provided to the Indian Health Services for COVID-19 measures including telehealth and other information technology upgrades.
  • $200 million for salaries and expenses to the Federal Communications Commission to support their efforts in responding to the COVID-19 emergency including providing telehealth services during the emergency period.

We expect more clarity on how this money will be allocated in the days and weeks ahead, and will update Ready customers and subscribers. The need to improve connectivity to deliver telehealth on the scale the US government desires means ISP should benefit from an allocation of the federal dollars.

We’re here to help you keep your subscribers connected. For additional info on how Ready helps local ISPs grow, please schedule a free consultation:

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Stay safe, and thank you again for connecting folks.