Providers who received COVID-19 financial relief through the Provider Relief Fund were treated to news of an extended reporting grace period on Friday when the federal government announced a delay as it updates the reporting requirements. The news comes as some senior living operators haven’t received requested payments from the fund.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it was delaying the reporting timeline in response to the December passage of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which added $3 billion to the Provider Relief Fund. 

The legislation included reporting requirements language. It also reopened a second round of funding to businesses that saw significant revenue declines in 2020 and allows the deduction of expenses paid by Paycheck Protection Program loan proceeds. Additionally, the legislation extends until March 31 the ability of employers to seek tax credits for wages paid for qualifying emergency sick leave for employees under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. 

Providers who received $10,000 or more from the fund can begin registering for gateway access to the reporting portal, where they ultimately will submit information on how they used the funds. HHS previously set a submission deadline of Feb. 15 but did not provide an amended deadline on Friday.

Argentum President and CEO James Balda said although the extension offers more time to review the changing guidelines, “the focus right now should be on distributing payments and relief to the industry caring for the nation’s most vulnerable.”

“Costs continue to rise for providers related to COVID-19, and many still haven’t received any or full payments from the Provider Relief Fund — from Phase 2 and Phase 3,” Balda told McKnight’s Senior Living.

Up to half of providers may need to close one or more communities within the next nine months if these payments are not received, he added. “It’s absolutely critical that HHS continues processing those payments to support operations for providers across the country,” Balda said.

As of last week, the Provider Relief Fund had made more than $116 billion in payments to 644,091 providers.

A LeadingAge spokeswoman said the association welcomed the opening of the reporting portal and the reporting delay but that further revisions and clarifications of those reporting requirements are needed before reporting begins. 

The American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living said that providers are focused on “responding to the current surge due to community spread, as well as the vaccination rollout.” The extension will give providers additional time to better understand the reporting requirement changes and register for the reporting portal, the groups said.

The reporting requirements do not apply to funds covering nursing home infection control, rural health clinics testing, or COVID-19 claims reimbursement to healthcare providers and facilities for testing, treatment and vaccine administration for the uninsured.