E-rate: How ‘BEAR’ Lets Schools Deploy Now, Get Reimbursed Later
The recent extension of the Form 470 and 471 deadlines for E-rate has come as a welcome relief for many, but we need to explore the potential negative repercussions as well. On the positive side, now schools, libraries, and various consortia have more time to navigate the E-rate process and hopefully secure funding for a wireless infrastructure project.
Unfortunately, however, these extended deadlines will also push out the first wave of funding, or when schools receive the money to actually start deploying their upgraded infrastructure and mobility networks.
USAC (Universal Service Administrative Company) now expects that the first funding wave will not go out until at least June 2016, with subsequent funding waves to occur through the Fall and into 2017. If this delayed funding is going to affect your deployment timeframe, you may be wondering if there are ways to speed up your project timeline.
You are in luck! Using the BEAR reimbursement method may be able to get your project back on track. The BEAR (Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement) method is used by applicants to request reimbursement for eligible services that have already been paid in full by the applicant to the service providers.
So to put it simply, using the BEAR method for reimbursement means that your school pays for the project or service up front, then is reimbursed by USAC at a later date. This means that you can start your Category 2 NOW, or as soon as your Form 471 is filed, whichever is later. This will allow you to start your deployment in the Spring or Summer timeframe instead of waiting until the 2016-2017 school year.
Schools that want to start their project early MUST use the BEAR Form. It is the only way to file if you expect to deploy on or around this Spring/Summer.
Choosing the BEAR method and starting the process now is the only guaranteed way to start your project before the next school year. This will help eliminate construction projects during the school year and will also free up your IT staff to focus on the students when they are on campus.