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USDA Invests in the Expansion of Rural Education and Health Care Access in Minnesota

Nikki Gillespie
Release Date

Distance Learning and Telemedicine Investments will benefit 2,573 Rural Residents

ST. PAUL, Minn., Dec. 2, 2019 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director for Minnesota Brad Finstad today announced more than $730,000 for two projects that will expand access to education and health care opportunities in rural Minnesota.

   “Distance learning and telemedicine opportunities provide residents in remote areas with services that may have otherwise not been possible,” Finstad said. “Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Perdue and Deputy Undersecretary for Rural Development Donald “DJ” LaVoy, USDA is dedicated to the partnerships that help make projects like these a reality.” 

   Education Innovation Partners Cooperative Center is receiving a $500,000 grant to provide distance learning services to 28 sites across six Minnesota counties: Aitkin, Cook, Itasca, Koochiching, Lake, and St. Louis. USDA’s investment will enable approximately 1,500 teachers to provide distance learning opportunities for 21,000 students, annually.

   CentraCare Health System is receiving a $234,648 grant to establish a telemedicine project and address the shortage of specialty care physicians in rural areas. Video equipment will be placed at 10 locations in eight central Minnesota counties: Kandiyohi, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Renville, Stearns, Swift, Todd, and Wadena. An additional 73 individual patient sites will be added as a result of this project with an estimated additional 2,000 patients served over the project’s two-year period.

   Finstad’s announcement is in coordination with Deputy Under Secretary LaVoy’s recent announcement that USDA is investing $42.5 million in 133 distance learning and telemedicine projects in 37 states and two U.S. territories: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

   USDA is providing the funding through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. These investments will benefit 5.4 million rural residents.

   Below are examples of projects receiving funding in other states:

  • Mississippi State University is receiving a $488,315 grant to update video conferencing and cloud-based equipment in 93 counties. USDA’s investment will enable participants in extension offices and experiment stations to deliver educational programming to interactive audiences. This project will benefit nearly 29,000 Mississippi residents, students, extension educators and faculty.
  • In Ohio, the Lisbon Exempted Village School District is receiving a $323,478 grant to create a distance learning network at eight sites in Columbiana County. The district will offer classes and behavioral health services to 850 students.
  • Owensboro Health Inc. in Kentucky is receiving a $460,820 grant to install telemedicine equipment at 10 sites in Hopkins, McLean, Muhlenberg and Ohio counties in Kentucky and a site in Perry County, Indiana. This project will provide health care resources to approximately 35,000 residents, including nearly 2,000 patients.

   Applicants eligible for Distance Learning and Telemedicine grants include most State and local governmental entities, federally-recognized tribes, nonprofits, for-profit businesses and consortia of eligible entities.

   In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Supporting the rural workforce was a cornerstone recommendation of the task force.

   To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

   USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/mn.