The Department of Health and Human Services has announced details on incentives that will be used to pay nursing homes from a previously announced $2 billion Provider Relief Fund.

Providers will not have to apply for the funding: HHS will measure nursing home performance through required data submissions and distribute funding accordingly.

Providers will be gauged on two measured outcomes: Their ability to keep new COVID infection rates and mortality rates low among residents. HHS said it will measure nursing homes against a baseline level of infection in the community where a given facility is located but did not specify what would constitute a “low” rate.

Qualifying nursing homes can be eligible each month, now through December, with $500 million available in each period. Nursing homes will be assessed based on the previous month’s data submissions, which will be closely audited by HHS, officials said.

“By tying these new funds for nursing homes to outcomes, while providing the support they need to improve quality and infection control, we will help support quality care, slow the spread of the virus, and save lives,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar in a statement.

HHS will base its decisions on county-level information determined by nursing home-provided information sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Data will include total confirmed and/or suspected COVID-19 infections per capita, as well as information on COVID-19 test positivity.

The COVID-19 infection and mortality rates will be calculated from data in the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) LTCF COVID-19 module. Regulators started requiring providers to submit data to it in mid-May.

Nursing homes can qualify by being Medicare certified and being actively certified by the state they’re in. Facilities also have to be reporting to one of three data sources to help establish eligibility: Certification and Survey Provider Enhanced Reports (CASPER), Nursing Home Compare (NHC), and Provider of Services (POS).

This distribution is the latest update in the previously announced $5 billion in planned support to nursing homes dealing with the impact of COVID-19. HHS announced last week that it had delivered an additional $2.5 billion in payments to nursing homes to help with upfront COVID-19-related expenses for testing, staffing, and personal protective equipment needs.

The nursing home incentive program is being funded as part of the $175 billion Provider Relief program included in the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.  Payments will be made under the same terms and conditions that came with initial infection control payments CMS announced last week.