A bipartisan bill introduced Wednesday would give recipients of Provider Relief Fund dollars extra time to spend those funds.

The Provider Relief Fund Deadline Extension Act, introduced by Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Michael Bennet (D-CO), would move the spending deadline to either the end of the year or the end of the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency —  whichever is further away.

“We established the Provider Relief Fund to offer financial assistance to members of our healthcare industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, but imprecise guidance from the Health and Human Services Department prevent many of the program’s first recipients form using the funds they received by the June 30 deadline,” Cramer said in a statement.

After the Department of Health and Human Services allocated $178 billion for the program through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support healthcare providers in responding to the pandemic, HHS announced funds had to be expended by June 30 or returned. 

On June 11, HHS announced that the new reporting window for the Provider Relief Fund would be calculated for the time funds are first received. The announcement included an extension for filing reports and spending down payments, and it also reduced burdens on smaller providers. The revised requirements apply to recipients who received payments of more than $10,000 after June 30, 2020. For future awards distributed this year, providers would have until the end of 2022 to spend down funds. 

The most recent change in the reporting requirement guidance came less than a month prior to the first deadline to use the funds. 

Reps. Cindy Axne (D-IA) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) plan to introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

The aging services industry last week sounded the alarm to protect undistributed Provider Relief Fund monies after they were rumored to be a funding source for the recently negotiated bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

Senior living advocates continue to ask the federal government to distribute awarded Phase 3 funding as they await a Phase 4 funding announcement. A recent Government Accountability Office report revealed that approximately $43.7 billion of the initial $178 billion remains in the fund.