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USDA Announces Funding to Increase Access to Education, Workforce Training and Health Care Opportunities in Rural Communities

Stephanie Bittiker
Release Date

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue today announced that USDA is awarding grants for 128 projects to increase access to job training, educational and health care services in rural areas.

   “Empowering rural Americans with access to services for quality of life and economic development is critical to rural prosperity,” Secretary Perdue said. “Distance learning and telemedicine technology bridges the gap that often exists between rural communities and essential education, workforce training and health care resources.”

   USDA is awarding $39.6 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program. More than 4.5 million residents in 40 states and three territories will benefit from the funding.

Below are summaries of some of USDA’s investments in rural communities in South Carolina:

  • Northeastern Technical College (NETC) is being awarded two grants with a combined total of $999,986 to be used to help upgrade its distance learning network to include two rural school districts and two AMIkids Juvenile Justice Programs in South Carolina. 2,212 students at the project sites will be provided access to specialized workforce training opportunities through these projects. Two-way interactive videoconferencing equipment will be provided to expand STEM-based technical training programs from NETC in Bennettsville and Cheraw and the other participating sites in South Carolina. The project will help alleviate the shortage of health care workers in the rural communities.

  • University of South Carolina is being awarded $478,556 to help provide Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) education programs. Interactive video equipment will be installed at five satellite college campuses in Sumter, Union, Lancaster, Allendale and Walterboro counties in the Northern and Southern regions of South Carolina. The project will enhance network and video-conferencing equipment, increasing access to 33 STEM-related courses and Bachelor of Science in Nursing courses reaching more than 3,580 students. The project will provide increased opportunities for nursing degrees, addressing the need due to the expected shortage of 10,400 nurses statewide in the future.

  • Clarendon County School District 2 is being awarded $295,310 to help implement a distance learning strategy to connect its campuses in Manning, Turbeville, and Summerton to the District Office in Manning, SC and to each other. A dedicated distance learning room with a high definition video endpoint will be installed in each school. Other equipment will include network switching, router, and inside wiring upgrades. This project represents a first for these schools, providing new and exciting opportunities for the communities while providing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics-based instruction and professional development for teachers. According to the applicant, this investment will impact 2,139 students.

  • Caresouth Carolina, Inc. is being awarded $362,726 to help equip 10 hub/end-user sites, five end-user sites at Chesterfield County schools, and one hub site to improve access to primary care and opioid education and substance misuse treatment services. The project will provide portable video systems and telemedicine carts. CareSouth Carolina, Inc. is a community health center that provides primary, preventive and integrated behavioral health care for medically underserved residents of Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Lee and Marlboro counties in the northeastern Pee Dee region of South Carolina. By the end of the 3-year project period, Caresouth anticipates reaching 2,800 patients annually through telemedicine services (1,500 adult primary care patients, 1,000 children and youth receiving primary care and behavioral health services, and 300 patients).

  • Georgetown County School District is being awarded $393,902.This Rural Development investment will be used to provide Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics (STEM) education to students who are challenged by limited access to technology and other public services. The grant funding will provide the needed infrastructure to enable STEM instruction to those students as well as continuing education requirements for STEM instructional staff. By expanding STEM access, students will have a better understanding of career paths in the fields of Computer Science, Engineering and Robotics. There will be six hub/end user locations serving the rural schools of the Hemingway and Andrews, SC communities. There will be one dedicated hub in the District Office in Georgetown, SC. The total number of students that will have access to the STEM content through the project resources will be 2,899.

  • Bridges Preparatory School and Royal Live Oaks Academy are being awarded $187,064 to purchase video conferencing equipment to provide interactive distance learning services for the two schools, which serves a population of 13,631 people in Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton and Hampton counties.The project will benefit the two schools by providing mobile distance learning carts containing video conferencing equipment. The equipment will enable the schools to share teachers, combine resources and bring new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education services and opportunities to students and faculty. It will also allow high school students to connect with the Technical College of the Lowcountry, where they will take vocational and dual enrollment courses relating to STEM education without the additional expense and travel time.

  • This Rural Development investment will be used to help the Marlboro County School District enhance and expand its distance learning network. The project will upgrade an aging, out-of-date distance learning network and expand the network across nine sites in Marlboro County in South Carolina. The project will take the eight rural schools involved and create a network of course and program offerings that everyone will have access to. This program will increase job readiness Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and dual credit courses for student by 30 percent, proficiencies by 15 percent and create seven professional development courses. In doing so, it will create educational opportunities for a larger opportunity-rich community in several rural areas. The project will serve 4,353 students and more than 350 teachers and adults.

    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. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key 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/sc.