Washington, DC, Jul 10, 2013 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to provide access to education, training and healthcare resources in rural areas. Funding is authorized through the Department’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) remains focused on carrying out its mission, despite a time of significant budget uncertainty. Today's announcement is one part of the Department's efforts to strengthen the rural economy.
“With access to the latest technology, America’s rural citizens can compete in today’s global economy,” Vilsack said. “These Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants will modernize equipment and improve healthcare services and educational opportunities for residents in remote areas. They will help generate jobs in small towns and revitalize rural economies.”
Under this notice, USDA may provide up to $17.5 million in grants. Funds can be used to buy equipment and provide technical assistance. To be eligible, applicants must serve a rural area, demonstrate economic need and provide at least 15 percent in matching funds. Awards range up to $500,000. In 2012, USDA Rural Development provided 58 DLT grants for projects in 36 states. Since the program began, 1,400 projects have been funded.
For example, in 2012, USDA Rural Development awarded Educational Service Unit 16-Ogallala, Nebraska funds for distance learning to be used in a system-wide upgrade to outfit schools with video conferencing equipment and updating their video bridge in this vast sparsely populated area of Southwest Nebraska. The modernized bridge unit is better able to leverage available bandwidth. This allows for richer content to run through the system while using less bandwidth expenses, thus saving on connection expenses. The project will provide students and others in their communities with expanded curriculum offerings, virtual travel opportunities and career advancement.
Completed applications must be received by August 12, 2013. For further details about eligibility rules and application procedures, see the notice published on page 38915 of the June 28, 2013 Federal Register: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-06-28/html/2013-15597.htm.
President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.
USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.