ATHENS, Ga., Oct. 7, 2020 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $72 million in grants to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities. Of this total, $2.8 million is awarded for distance learning and telemedicine expansion in rural Georgia. Funding comes from the Distance Learning & Telemedicine Program which helps rural residents tap into the enormous potential of modern telecommunications and the Internet.
“Since becoming State Director for Georgia’s Rural Development, I already knew the need for broadband in Rural Georgia and had been working to provide resources to rural areas and promote USDA’s Rural Development broadband opportunities. We were making headway. However, when COVID19 hit, the need for broadband was made even more critical. Students need to be able to learn without attending in-person classes and doctors need to be able to reach rural patients without the patients coming into the office or hospital. People need to be able to reach their customers and offices without getting in their car. COVID19 proved further what we already knew and that is E-connectivity is not a luxury, but rather a necessity,” USDA Rural Development State Director Joyce White said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA continues to be a strong partner with rural communities, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
A summary of the projects selected for grants in Georgia follows below:
Augusta University $576,035 for Telemedicine
This Rural Development investment will be used to assist primary care providers in rural clinics in transmitting images of patient lesions to dermatologists at hub sites in 15 Georgia counties. This improved capability will expand access to quality healthcare and serve to expedite diagnosis and treatment plans.
(Appling, Baker, Burke, Calhoun, Candler, Dooly, Dougherty, Evans, Jefferson, Lee, Montgomery, Richmond, Screven, Terrell and Treutlen counties)
Northeast Georgia Health System $794,881 for Telemedicine
This Rural Development investment will be used to expand medical services provided by The Medical Foundation, Inc. dba Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) Foundation physicians to patients living in eight rural counties of northeast Georgia. These rural residents are often located hours away from primary, urgent, and specialty care. NGHS Foundation will purchase Telehealth carts which will be equipped to enable video and audio communication that will allow doctors, that would otherwise be unavailable, to connect with remote patients in real time for consultation visits. This will result in an increase in workflow and increase in access and timeliness to care.
(Barrow, Dawson, Gwinnett, Hall, Lumpkin, Rabun, Stephens, White counties)
Taylor County Board of Education $570,050 for Distance Learning
This Rural Development investment will be used to allow the Taylor County Board of Education to equip interactive distance learning rooms at eight different schools in both Taylor and Cook counties. This new capability will provide student access to additional course offerings in language and math, virtual field trips, and increased access to counselors and advisors in order to prepare students for a high-tech future.
(Cook and Taylor counties)
This Rural Development investment will be used to improve the management of chronic health conditions in rural residents of nine communities in Central Georgia through partnership between the University of Georgia, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA), and Georgia Union Missionary Baptist Association (GUMBA). Faculty members and students will have access to videoconferencing technology to provide patient counseling, wellness checks, healthcare education, and outreach to underserved communities.
(Ben Hill, Clarke (hub site – UGA), Dooly, Houston, Macon, Pulaski and Sumter counties and nine cities/towns are involved in the project: Americus, Athens (hub site – UGA), Elko, Fitzgerald, Hawkinsville, Leslie, Montezuma, Vienna, and Unadilla, Ga.)
USDA is funding four projects in Georgia through the Distance Learning & Telemedicine Program, totaling $2,806,996.00.
The Distance Learning and Telemedicine program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density.
Grants are awarded through a national competition annually, FY2020 applications were due July 13, 2020. A minimum 15% match is required for this grant.
Interested parties should contact the Rural Utilities Service General Field Representative for their state for information about this program including the FY2021 application timeframes and eligibility details.
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.