The Funding Year 2021 Form 471 application filing window closed at 11:59pm EST on Thursday, March, 25, 2021. In just the final four days of the application window, applicants nationwide submitted more than $1 billion in funding requests for the upcoming Funding Year. Whether you are a first-time filer or an E-rate veteran, here are a few tips to keep in mind as we move toward the start of FY2021.
Get ready for review
All applications certified before the close of the filing window are placed into a queue for review by USAC, the E-rate program administrator. Known as Program Integrity Assurance, or PIA, the review process ensures that program rules were followed and applications were filed correctly. During PIA, it is common for USAC to contact applicants with questions or requests for documentation needed to complete the review. Applicants should monitor their e-mail and E-rate Productivity Center (EPC) accounts closely to watch for questions from USAC, as failure to respond can result in processing delays or denials.
Organize your documentation
A key element to successful E-rate applications is ensuring that backup documentation is complete, thorough, and organized. Filing Forms 471 close to the deadline can be hectic, so once applications are submitted it is a good idea to go back and make sure all supporting documentation is in order. Besides hard documents like contracts, bids, and evaluation worksheets, be sure to save notes, calculations, and other items that are fresh in your mind so that you can refer to them later.
Watch for funding waves
USAC issues funding decisions in regular intervals known as “waves.” The date of the first funding wave in each Funding Year varies – FY2020’s first wave was issued on May 9, 2020, but prior years’ first waves have ranged from April to July. If your application shows a status of “Wave Ready,” you will want to monitor your e-mail closely for notification of a funding decision.
Plan for the start of service
Funding Year 2021 officially starts on July 1, 2021, which is the earliest date that discounted recurring services may begin. However, applicants can begin installation of non-recurring Category Two products and services as early as April 1, 2021. If taking advantage of the opportunity for early installation, applicants are encouraged to keep detailed records demonstrating that no goods were received (or work performed) prior to April 1. It is also important to remember that even if Category Two equipment is installed early and a funding commitment has been issued, USAC cannot process disbursements (via BEAR or SPI) until July 1 or later.
Stay tuned for a new opportunity
The FCC is currently preparing rules for the $7.1B Emergency Connectivity Fund, which will provide support for remote learning products and services as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. It is estimated that the final rules will be available by early May, and an application window will open later this summer. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of the page to be kept up to date on the latest regulations, procedures, and timelines for this significant opportunity.