Washington, Jul 01, 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."
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, "Distance Learning and Telemedicine funding is critical in helping rural healthcare and educational facilities broaden their reach by increasing access to healthcare and making learning opportunities more accessible to rural Maine residents. I have seen first-hand the impact this program has on patients and how it eases the burden of having to travel long distances for critical services and how advanced educational opportunities can be accessed in some of Maine's more remote locations. I strongly encourage interested organizations to apply for this valuable program."
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 2011, Kno-Wal-Lin Home Care and Hospice, Inc. received a grant of $146,903 to connect Knox, Lincoln, and Waldo counties in Maine and several island communities with telemedicine technology. Tele-homecare and tele-video units are the two essential parts of the project which monitor patients' vital signs and allow interaction with care providers in addressing for chronic medical conditions. In Maine, the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program has funded 74 rural health and education projects since FY 2000.
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.
USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. There are 63 employees working to deliver the agency's Housing, Business, and Community Programs, which are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, and farmers, and improve the quality of life in rural Maine. USDA Rural Development invested a total of $402.5 million in Maine communities last Fiscal Year. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/me.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).