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COVID-19 Aid Available Through AOA Foundation Recovery Fund; Deadline Is Oct. 31

The fund provides up to $3,000 per AOA member, and up to $1,500 for nonmembers.

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The American Optometric Association has made available a new relief opportunity is available to doctors of optometry facing hardships.

Launched Oct. 1, the AOA Foundation Recovery Fund provides up to $3,000 per AOA member (up to $1,500 for nonmembers) to help optometry practices affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund is made possible by the contributions of Visionary Supporter Johnson & Johnson Vision as well as Associate Supporter CooperVision.

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Applications for the AOA Foundation Recovery Fund will be accepted through 11:59 p.m. CT, Oct. 31, 2020. The specific 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,” said Pete Kehoe, OD, 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 here.

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AOA explains: 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.

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, DC, 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, OD, 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% to 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.

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.

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“The AOA Recovery Fund will need additional financial support from other ophthalmic industry partners and individuals to ensure the necessary care can continue,” Kehoe said.

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