Amid questions about delays, the Trump administration is sending billions of dollars in aid to disability providers and others funded by Medicaid who have been hard hit by the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said this week that some $15 billion will go toward providers serving individuals covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including home- and community-based services providers.

The money is part of the $175 billion Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund that federal lawmakers created in a pair of coronavirus relief bills earlier this year to help health care providers.

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While HHS has already distributed billions of dollars from the fund, little has gone toward providers funded primarily by Medicaid.

That has drawn the ire of disability advocates and lawmakers alike. Just last week, a bipartisan group of congressional leaders wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar to inquire about the holdup.

Agencies supporting people with developmental disabilities — which rely on Medicaid funding — have struggled greatly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the American Network of Community Options and Resources, or ANCOR, a national trade group representing disability service providers. Unable to continue offering day programs and other services, providers have seen revenues decline while their costs for staffing, personal protective equipment and other needs have grown.

ANCOR has warned that the situation is so dire that a recent survey of 689 of its member organizations found that more than half only had enough cash on hand to continue providing services for another five or six weeks.

HHS said that starting this week it is launching an enhanced portal for eligible providers to report their annual patient revenue. Each provider will receive at least 2 percent of its reported gross revenue from patient care, the agency said.

The money is expected to help several hundred thousand providers ranging from pediatricians to assisted living facilities and those offering behavioral health and home- and community-based services, HHS said.

“This is obviously very welcome news and we’re grateful to HHS for finally taking this positive step forward,” said Sean Luechtefeld, a spokesman for ANCOR, who noted that it’s been 74 days since the fund was established and this is the first money to be designated just for Medicaid providers. “At the same time, we’re just starting to scratch the surface in terms of the overall need.”

Luechtefeld indicated that ANCOR is pushing for more money from the emergency fund to be directed to community-based services providers that rely on Medicaid and the group is seeking funds specifically tagged for these providers in the next round of relief legislation from Congress.

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