The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced nearly $16 million in grants to help fund telehealth and distance learning initiatives in rural U.S. areas.
The grants will be provided through USDA's Distance Learning and Telemedicine program, which provides funding to rural hospitals, clinics, schools and libraries for equipment and technical assistance for telemedicine and distance learning. Grant recipients must demonstrate that they serve rural America, prove there is an economic need and provide at least 15 percent in matching funds.
Since 2009, USDA has invested almost $150 million in the Distance Learning and Telemedicine program. These investments complement other USDA efforts to improve rural communications. In FY 2013, USDA provided $305 million in loans for broadband infrastructure. These loans will result in new or upgraded broadband service for about 120,000 rural households, businesses and community institutions once the projects are completed.
"Expanding access to broadband will greatly improve educational and economic opportunities for rural residents," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “We must make needed investments to connect our rural residents to the 21st century technology that will help them compete in a global economy."
A breakdown of how the grants will be dispersed can be seen here.