File BEARs Now for FY 2015 E-rate Reimbursements
September 15, 2016
If you did not receive discounted bills for FY 2015′s recurring services, and have not yet filed your Form 472 BEAR form to seek reimbursement from USAC, please conduct your calculations and submit the BEAR very soon. The deadline to submit the BEAR or to request an extension is October 28, 2016. I’ve attached am updated list of FRNs whose vendors have NOT invoiced USAC, which likely means these schools or libraries must submit BEARs for those FRNs. Not included in this list are entities that have already filed BEARs for any or all of FY 2015 (and where USAC has already authorized disbursement). Also, the list does not include internal connections FRNs as the deadline for those BEARs is January 28, 2017 (120 days after the last date to receive internal connections equipment which is September 30, 2016).
Very Important Notes – Please Read:
- FILE IN OLD BEAR SYSTEM: BEARs (Form 472s) will NOT be filed in the new EPC Portal. Instead, you must use the legacy system/method of applying at: https://www2.sl.universalservice.org/bear/login.aspx.
- BEAR PIN: To get into the old system, you must use your old E-rate PIN — not your EPC credentials. If you don’t have an old E-rate PIN, complete this template and submit it in EPC to have them mail you a new PIN. If you had a PIN but can’t find it, call the Client Service Bureau at 888-203-8100 and they can regenerate your PIN.
- FORM 498 REQUIRED: Before you file the BEAR, you must have an approved Form 498. The Form 498 provides USAC with the banking information so that your BEAR reimbursements can be directly deposited into your account. Remember, beginning July 1, 2016, vendors will not approve your BEARs, USAC reimbursement payments will not pass through the vendors, and no paper checks will be mailed. The Form 498 must be filed in EPC by a “school or library official” (not a consultant). If you’re unsure how to find or complete the 498, refer to this guide: http://e-ratepa.org/?p=13701. Note: After you submit the 498, you must then upload a copy of a voided/cancelled check so USAC can be assured that the information you entered on the 498 is accurate. USAC will issue an approval of your 498 via e-mail to the General Financial Contact. After receiving that approval, you can THEN submit the BEAR. I will send an updated list of who does and doesn’t have approved 498s tomorrow.
- BEAR DEADLINE: The deadline for filing a BEAR for recurring services is October 28, 2016. DO-NOT-MISS-THIS-DEADLINE as the new invoicing deadline rules are VERY strict. If you cannot submit a BEAR by the deadline, you must submit an invoice deadline extension request (IDER) BEFORE October 28 (or whatever your invoice deadline is). USAC will then approve a single 120-day extension. USAC is not permitted — under any circumstance — to grant a second extension. Also, they are not permitted to grant any extension requests that are submitted after October 28 (or whatever your original invoice deadline was). Thus, it’s important that you begin your BEAR forms NOW. Please don’t wait until the last minute because you’re likely to forget to file. Each year, many applicants are committed funding, but then never go back to seek reimbursement. Don’t let them keep your well-deserved money.
A few important Q & A’s:
1) Can I complete the BEAR online?
A. All BEARs – regardless of funding year – must be filed online beginning July 1, 2016. No paper BEARs will be accepted.
2) Can I put all of my reimbursement requests on a single BEAR?
A. No, a separate BEAR must be completed for each separate SPIN (vendor). For example, if you have 2 FRNs that list Comcast, and one FRN that is for AT&T, you can submit both Comcast FRN reimbursement requests on a single BEAR, but the AT&T reimbursement request must be filed on a separate BEAR.
3) Am I required to have the provider approve the BEAR?
A. No. Beginning July 1, 2016, vendors will not certify BEARs for any funding year. Your BEAR will be submitted directly to USAC for processing.
4) How long will it take for my BEAR reimbursement to arrive?
A. Because service providers have been removed from the BEAR approval/reimbursement process, BEAR reimbursements will be directly deposited to the bank account that was listed on the Form 498 within a few days of BEAR submission, assuming the BEAR is not denied or held for further review.
5) How will I know when the BEAR reimbursement amount has been deposited into my bank account?
A. The General Financial Contact and the Remittance Contact listed on your Form 498 will both receive an e-mail containing a statement with the date the reimbursement amount was transferred and the amount.
6) I was committed more funding than I actually spent. Can I request reimbursement for the full amount that was originally committed?
A. No. Applicants may only seek reimbursement for the exact amount paid for the service instead of just listing the full funding cap (for example, if you were committed $10,000, but then only spent $6,000, you can only request E-rate reimbursements based on the $6000). Please know that USAC has increasingly been requesting copies of invoices when they review the BEARs as proof that you are requesting the accurate amount.
7) I spent more than what was committed on my funding commitment letter (my cap). What should I list on my BEAR — the cap or the actual amount spent?
USAC would like you to complete the BEAR with the actual figures of what you spent for the service, and not just list your funding cap amount. For example, if you spent $10,000, and had a 50% discount, you would list $10,000 in Column 14 and $5,000 in Column 15, even if you were only committed $4,000. The reason is that USAC would like to show how much applicants are actually spending on services and also so they know that you are not just listing the funding commitment amount (the cap), but have actually added up how much was actually spent in each of the 12 months using the actual vendor bills. Unfortunately, they will only reimburse you up to the amount that you were committed.
8) What if I receive my BEAR Remittance Letter and it lists that $0 was approved?
A. This typically means that there was an error made on the BEAR Form and the applicant must correct the error and resubmit to USAC. Many years ago, USAC reached out to the applicant to correct the Form over the phone, but no longer. Now USAC will “pass zero” the BEAR (meaning they won’t fund it), but it doesn’t mean the E-rate funding is gone. It simply means that the applicant must resubmit the BEAR with corrected information and typically there is an explanation on the BEAR explaining what was incorrect to help identify the error.
9) What if I actually received a slightly different service/equipment than what was originally listed on my Form 471 application?
A. USAC has increased scrutiny of the BEARs to make sure that reimbursement requests are for exactly what services were approved for on the FCDLs. If you changed services during the 2015 funding year from what you originally listed on your Form 471, you should first seek a “correcting service substitution request” from USAC. The instructions for submitting a service substitution can be found at: http://www.sl.universalservice.org/reference/ServiceSub.asp
10) What should I do if I didn’t use the service?
A. File a Form 500 and cancel the FRN. The easiest version to use is available at: http://www.e-ratecentral.com/formsRack/app/Form500.asp.
If you have any questions about the FY 2015 Invoice Deadlines or completing the BEAR, please contact me at email@example.com.
Julie Tritt Schell
PA E-rate Coordinator
717-730-7133 – o
717-730-9060 – f