The Health Resources and Services Administration expects in mid-August to distribute half of the $5 billion in Provider Relief Funds announced last month to enhance COVID-19 response at Medicare-certified long-term care facilities, the agency said Friday.

Facilities can use the funding to support increased testing, staffing and personal protective equipment needs. The agency said it expects to distribute the remaining $2.5 billion throughout the fall based on a facility’s performance, which will consider the prevalence of the virus in the local area and the facility’s ability to minimize COVID-19 spread and related fatalities among its residents.

Project ECHO, a consortium of about 250 health system “hubs” across the United States, has partnered with the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality to pilot a nursing home infection control learning network that will be available to any facility seeking support, the agency said.

“We anticipate that linking payment to performance will be an effective means of holding nursing homes accountable, stimulating innovation, and encouraging them to reach beyond their own walls for infection control expertise and support,” said HRSA Administrator Thomas Engels.

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