Taking the bite out of the BEAR Form

While you were waiting for your funding decision from the SLC, you paid for services in full and took the chance on good faith that you’d be reimbursed. How, and when, can you expect to get that money back?

The SLC’s reimbursement process is guided by three principles:

• Applicants WILL be reimbursed for money spent out of pocket.

• Reimbursements will come from your service providers via check or credit. It’s up to you to work this out with your vendors. Service providers may choose which method is most convenient for them but also must entertain your request, if different.

• The Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC) will issue a refund check to your service providers to cover the amount of your reimbursements. But service providers are required to reimburse you before they cash their check from USAC.

The only scenario in which you’d receive your reimbursement directly from the SLC would be if your service provider has gone out of business. In that case, you should contact the SLC in writing as soon as you get your funding commitment letter and explain the details of your situation.

The first thing you’ll do is fill out and submit a Form 486, which notifies the SLC that it’s okay to process vendor invoices for the services you’ve already received. In Block 2, Column I of your Form 486, you’ll write “yes” to indicate that you’ll be filing a Billed Entity Applicant Reimbursement (BEAR) Form as well.

BEAR Form explained

Each BEAR form must contain exactly one Billed Entity Number (in other words, only one applicant) and exactly one Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN). If you have contracts with several vendors, you’ll have to fill out BEAR forms for each vendor separately.

However, you can include as many Funding Request Numbers (FRNs) or Forms 471 as you want on one BEAR form, as long as those services are provided by the same vendor.

The BEAR form and Form 474, the “Service Provider Invoice Form,” are modelled after each other for the SLC’s convenience. Aside from their headers, both forms contain identical fields of information.

Service providers must file a Form 474 each time they send you a bill for services (i.e., once per month for services billed monthly, or each time work is completed for one-time services). To make it easier on vendors, the SLC allows them to submit Form 474 online once they have registered to do so.

For applicants, the BEAR form CANNOT be submitted electronically. There may be two times during this first program cycle when you’ll submit a BEAR form:

(1) As soon as you receive your funding commitment letter, to recover the money you’ve spent since the program began Jan. 30; and

(2) Once you actually begin to see discounts reflected in your bills, to recover any additional money that you’ve paid in full while waiting for your service providers to incorporate your discount into their billing procedures.

The SLC’s idea is to get the money into your hands as quickly as possible; therefore, you have the option of filing one BEAR form right away and another later on, after you’ve made your final pre-discount payment. If your service providers are able to incorporate discounts into your bills right away, or if you’d prefer to wait and fill out BEAR forms only once, you have that option as well.

Block 1: Header Information

All items in the header must be filled out completely.

Items 4 and 5 ask for the name and number of a contact person. This doesn’t have to be the name of the original applicant, though it could be; or it could be the person responsible for your organization’s purchasing or billing. You should choose the person who would be most appropriate for the SLC to contact if there are any questions regarding vendor invoices or reimbursements.

Item 6 asks you for a “Reimbursement Form Number.” Like the Form 486, this allows you to assign your own unique number to the form for purposes of identifying or distinguishing it from others you may have filed.

Item 8 asks you for your total reimbursement amount. You’ll add the total amount from Block 2, Item 15 and enter it here.

Block 2: Line Item Information Per Funding Request Number

• Item 9, “FCC Form 471 Application Number”: Again, just as you did on your Form 486, you’ll enter the ten-digit Form 471 number that appeared in the header of your funding commitment letter for each service.

• Item 10, “Funding Request Number”: This tells the SLC which services you’re requesting reimbursements on.

• Item 11, “Bill Frequency”: This column is blacked out in your BEAR form, and you don’t have to fill it out. The only reason it’s here is because the information fields in the BEAR form are identical to those of the Service Provider Invoice Forms. Service providers are required to supply this information on their Forms 474.

• Item 12, “Customer Billed Date”: For each funding request number, you’ll fill out EITHER Item 12 or Item 13, but not both. Item 12 is for any service you get more than one bill for, like monthly telecommunications services or internet access. The SLC is looking for an anchor date here—the month and year you first received a bill within the current program cycle.

• Item 13, “Shipping Date to Customer or Last Day of Work Performed”: If you filled out Item 12 for a particular FRN, then you don’t have to put anything here. This is for services you receive only one bill for, like a one-time charge to wire your school or library building. You’ll enter the date you received the bill for that one-time service here, in month/day/year format.

• Item 14, “Total (Undiscounted) Amount for Service”: Add up all your bills for each service, beginning with the period that you recorded in Item 12, and enter the total here.

• Item 15, “Discount Amount Billed to SLC”: You can use the Optional Pre-Discount Cost Calculation Grid that was included with your funding commitment letter to help you subtract ineligible entities or services from the amount you entered in Item 14, then multiply that subtotal by your discount percentage to get the total amount you expect to be reimbursed on each particular service.

Block 3: Applicant Certification

When you sign your BEAR form in Block 3, you’re certifying that the total amount listed in Block 2, Item 15 was paid for eligible services delivered only to eligible entites for eligible uses; was paid for by you, the applicant; and reflects only approved discounts by the SLC.

You must complete all fields in Block 3, and you must supply an original signature (not a copy). You may want to sign in blue ink to help the SLC verify that your signature is original.

Block 4: Service Provider Acknowledgement

Your service providers also need to sign off on your BEAR forms. By signing the forms, your service providers are agreeing that they performed the services indicated and were paid in full for those services. Your vendors also are promising to reimburse you before they cash their checks from USAC.

While your signature must be an original, your service providers’ signatures don’t have to be. The easiest procedure would be to fill out the BEAR form, then send a copy to your service provider. The service provider then would fax or send Block 4 back to you with a signature, and you would send the completed form, including the copy of Block 4 with your servive provider’s signature, to the SLC.

BEAR approval process

The SLC’s goal is to process and approve each BEAR form within 20 days of receiving it. The SLC will process the BEAR form the same way it will process Form 486.

If your form is approved, the SLC will notify your service provider to ready its reimbursement to you. You’ll be copied on that notification, too.

At the same time, the SLC will notify USAC to cut a check to your service provider in the amount of your reimbursement.

Within 10 days of receiving notification from the SLC, your service provider must provide your reimbursement in the form of a check or credit.

eSchool News Staff

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