COVID-19 recovery funds available for financially stressed doctors of optometry
Continuing AOA’s broad, multifaceted support and relentless advocacy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a new relief opportunity is available to doctors of optometry facing undue hardships.
Launched Oct. 1, the AOA Foundation Recovery Fund provides up to $3,000 per AOA member (up to $1,500 for nonmembers) in recovery aid funding to bolster the viability of optometry practices affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency, and helps ensure doctors of optometry can continue providing essential eye health and vision care in their communities. The fund is made possible by the generous contributions of Visionary Supporter Johnson & Johnson Vision, as well as Associate Supporter CooperVision.
Applications for the AOA Foundation Recovery Fund will only be accepted through 11:59 p.m. CT, Oct. 31, 2020, and the exact dollar amount awarded will depend on certain criteria to assess need. After review, funds will be disseminated in December.
“Many doctors of optometry, especially in lower-income communities and those communities devastated by COVID-19, have slipped through the cracks with regard to support from federal and local agencies,” says Pete Kehoe, O.D., Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation Board president. “The AOA Foundation Recovery Fund expects a large demand for funds to help doctors continue providing critical care to patients in need in the months ahead.”
Submit an application for the AOA Foundation Recovery Fund by Oct. 31, 2020.
Continuation of AOA’s advocacy, member support
Created as part of AOA’s comprehensive, $5.5. million crisis relief and recovery assistance plan to the profession, the AOA Foundation Recovery Fund is intended to provide immediate relief to doctors financially stressed by COVID-19 closures, lockdowns and reductions in patient traffic. As part of that plan, the AOA Board not only established the recovery fund, waived membership dues and provided direct affiliate support but also reprioritized the association in support of AOA’s advocacy in federal relief measures and emergency laws or regulations.
To date, AOA’s efforts have helped doctors of optometry nationwide access over $1.69 billion in federal relief options, such as the Paycheck Protection Program and Department of Health and Human Services’ physician relief grants. Additionally, the AOA has helped doctors—through the #AskAOA webinar series—make best use of Economic Injury Disaster Loans, federal student loan payment deferments and expanded Medicare telehealth provisions.
“Through AOA’s steadfast advocacy in Washington, D.C., and all-out reprioritization in these challenging times, we can proudly say tens of thousands of doctors of optometry have been able to access these federal relief opportunities to ensure their patients and communities won’t go without essential primary eye health and vision care,” said William T. Reynolds, O.D., AOA president.
These federal relief provisions have been a lifeline for many optometry practices. While optometry rose to the occasion by diverting over 206,000 patients away from overburdened hospital emergency departments at the height of pandemic closures, it came at a cost. Nearly overnight, optometry practices faced patient flow reductions approaching 90% following the Centers’ for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to postpone elective visits in March.
Even now, doctors of optometry report a 20-40% year-over-year reduction in patient visits despite the gradual relaxing of state and federal public health guidance, and three-quarters of doctors surveyed say they took a personal pay cut to keep their practice afloat.
In addition to providing ‘COVID-safe’ environments that include the need for personal protective equipment and the necessary reduction in patient flow to meet social distancing guidelines, this ‘new normal’ comes with significant challenges and changes in patient care and practice decisions. Financial support to optometry practices, especially those in economically depressed communities or those hardest hit by COVID-19, ensures the continuation of primary eye care services that, in turn, help ease burdens on hospital emergency departments.
Help support our colleagues
As the COVID-19 public health emergency continues to deliver untold challenges for optometry practices nationwide, consider donating to the AOA Foundation Recovery Fund in support of your colleagues. Your investment will ensure that Optometry Cares®—The AOA Foundation continues to provide immediate relief for those in need.
“The AOA Recovery Fund will need additional financial support from other ophthalmic industry partners and individuals to ensure the necessary care can continue,” Dr. Kehoe says.
AOA Foundation Recovery Fund
Optometry’s Meeting returns to Denver, June 24-26, with a reimagined experience that keeps attendees’ health and safety paramount—see how 2021 is different and register to attend today.
Given the doors that were once closed and are now open to women and people of color in society, it might be expected that the faces of optometry would reflect the changing demographics of the nation. And with the nation’s reckoning over social injustice in 2020 stirring anew concerns over diversity and inclusiveness, the profession is asking whether optometry reflects the nation’s changing demographics—and why should that matter?
After two years apart, Optometry’s Meeting welcomes back friends and colleagues June 24-26 with a new location and revamped experience that puts attendees’ health and safety first.