USDA Secretary Vilsack reports that on November 24, that USDA will begin accepting applications for up to $1.15 billion in loans and grants to expand availability of broadband in rural areas.
USDA is making the funds available through the ReConnect Program. To be eligible for the ReConnect Program funding, an applicant must serve an area without broadband service at speeds of 100 Mbps per second download) and 20 Mbps (upload) and commit to building facilities capable of providing broadband service at speeds of 100Mbps (download and upload) to every location in their proposed service area.
For more information, go to https://www.usda.gov/reconnect.
Secretary Vilsack also announced on October 22, 2021 that $50 million in 105 rural projects were awarded funding through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program. Funds were awarded in 37 states and Puerto Rico to fund distance learning and telemedicine in rural areas to increase access to education, training, and healthcare resources that are limited in areas or are unavailable.
Some of the grants awards include:
- University of Alabama received $951,886 to create a network of 26 ambulances to be equipped with equipment to provide telemedicine to immediately relay real-time data to emergency physicians across eleven rural hubs
- Indiana University Health Inc. received $847,013 to purchase and install telehealth equipment at 81 of their rural critical access hospitals. The equipment will be used to expand access to 24/7 behaviorial health services
- Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc. received $570.211 to add 33 telemedicine carts to 29 ARH hospital or outpatient clinic locations throughout Eastern Kentucky and Western West Virginia
- Eastland Memorial Hospital District received $896,714 to equip 23 sites with interactive telehealth equipment in 17 communities located in 14 Texas counties. The goal is to bring healthcare, continuing medical education, and telemental health resources to rural locations
Go to https://rd.usda.gov/programs-services/telecommunications-programs/distance-learning-telemedicine-grants for more information on the grants awarded.