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

Justin Wilkes
Release Date

State Director for Rural Development in Mississippi John Rounsaville announced that USDA is awarding grants for four projects in Mississippi.  Earlier, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that USDA is awarding $39.6 million through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program, benefitting more than 4.5 million residents in 40 states and three territories.

  “Distance learning and telemedicine technology helps bridge the gap that often exists between rural communities and their larger urban counterparts,” Rounsaville said.  “As one of the least connected states in America, projects like these are essential to improving education, increasing access to health care services, and workforce development, helping to increase the quality of life for all Mississippians.”

Below are summaries of USDA’s investments in rural communities in Mississippi:

  • Forrest County is receiving $472,835 to help Forrest County General Hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi purchase telemedicine equipment to expand the Forrest County General Hospital Health System. Forrest Health is a partnership of health care organizations formed to increase access to quality healthcare in south Mississippi. Three telemedicine projects will be established: Tele-Psych, to provide psychiatric services remotely via telemedicine; Tele-ICU, to provide remote intensive care assessments via telemedicine; and Tele-ER, to provide remote emergency care consults via telemedicine. This project will bring state of the art medical services to remote and rural locations in southern Mississippi, with the potential to serve up to 200,000 residents in eight counties.

  • Lauderdale County is receiving $478,246 to help the Lauderdale County School District purchase mobile videoconferencing carts for 16 sites in five rural Mississippi school districts. The project will enable each school to connect to share teachers, combine resources, and bring new educational services and opportunities to 8,447 students and faculty. The program will also offer rural residents in the communities of Collinsville, Meridian, Liberty, Heidelberg, Tylertown and Columbia Mississippi greater access to job placement services, GED programs, skills training programs, and higher education.

  • Holly Springs School District is receiving $491,885 to help their school district, along with Rust College, Marshall Urgent Care, the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) & Workforce Program Office in Holly Spring, and North Panola School District, develop a distance learning program. This project will establish 17 interactive distance learning environments at 12 project locations, serving a population of 11,566. The program will quadruple the number of students who have access to classes, strengthening academic preparedness and achievement. Career Tech training, particularly in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics that are in high demand from regional employers, and this project aims to prepare traditional students for entry into a skilled wage job following high school graduation.

  • North Pike School District is receiving $498,687 to help the North Pike School District install distance learning carts in partnership with four regional K-12 school districts: South Pike, Simpson County, Yazoo County, and Natchez-Adams. This program will bring about new opportunities for students in 16 schools to increase their proficiency in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics subject areas, providing access to additional courses in math, science, and coding. It will also open career-focused programming courses such as computer science, health science, and agriculture science. The project will provide services to 7,688 students and teachers.

   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.