COVID-19 Relief: Schools Can Accept Gifts from E-Rate Service Providers for Limited Time

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP

On March 18, 2020, the Federal Communication Commission (the “FCC”) waived the E-Rate program gift rule which bars service providers from gifting anything of value in excess of $20.

The rule waiver permits certain E-Rate eligible schools to accept gifts that can assist schools and school staff with remote learning needs during the COVID-19 outbreak. These items could include, but are not limited to, free upgrades to connections, connected devices, equipment, Wi-Fi hotspots, and networking gear.

The waiver ends September 30, 2020, and is limited to E-Rate eligible schools that are closed or preparing to close as a direct result of COVID-19, regardless of funding year. However, schools are required to record and document the gifts or things of value in excess of $20. These records must be retained in accordance with the FCC document retention rules and time periods.

Despite this waiver, schools must remember their continuing obligation to comply with applicable procurement laws, as well as with all other applicable E-Rate rules and requirements. The FCC states it will attempt continue to recover funds through normal processes if funds are not used properly.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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