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USDA Announces Funding to Increase Access to Education, Workforce Training and Health Care Opportunities in Rural Communities--Nebraska Receives $1.8 Million for Five Projects

Vicki Schurman
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 USDA’s investments in rural Nebraska communities:

  • Educational Service Unit #16 (ESU #16) in Nebraska received a $500,000 Distance Learning grant to assist with implementing its Health Initiative for Living and Learning STEM (HILLS) program through the purchase and installation of video-conferencing equipment. This project implements mobile distance learning carts at thirty (30) public schools providing access to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education for students in eighteen (18) counties within South-Central Nebraska. The project connects students to colleges and educational centers providing courses in agriculture, education, information technology, business, health science, and STEM education. The project will increase the number of graduating career and college ready students from among the 93,000 residents served.

  • Mid-Plains Community College in Nebraska received a $101,133 Distance Learning Grant to replace outdated distance learning carts with more inclusive, updated distance learning technology. Distance learning carts will be installed at six campus sites in Lincoln, Custer, Keith, Chase and Red Willow counties to accommodate the growing demand for distance education courses. Distance learning technology will be installed in laboratories and classrooms affiliated with Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics instruction, where the technology currently does not exist.  This project will benefit 41,496 rural residents.

  • Rural Nebraska Healthcare Network in Nebraska received a $265,159 Distance Telemedicine grant to help Rural Nebraska Healthcare Network replace obsolete telemedicine technology at nine sites in far western Nebraska to continue modernization of the existing tele-health system. This project will install a core all-fiber backbone and paired electronics on the new network. innovative technology, computers, and software to enable all sites to deliver medical care predominantly aimed at opioid misuse, but also to provide primary, emergency, and specialty care using collaborative resources from all network clinics and hospitals.  Sites from this project will impact Arthur, Banner, Box Butte, Cheyenne, Dawes, Duel, Garden, Grant, Keith, Kimball, Morrill, Perkins, Scotts Bluff, Sheridan, and Sioux Counties. The project has potential to serve 43,840 residents.

  • Rural Health Partners Inc. in Nebraska received a $499,800 Distance Telemedicine grant to help Heartland Health Alliance to use telemedicine technology to provide essential opioid misuse and treatment services, mental health and other medical specialty care throughout Nebraska, Western Iowa, and Northern Kansas. These services will allow 14 rural hospitals located in these states to increase access to services routinely available in more urban and populated areas. Innovative telemedicine equipment will enable healthcare professionals to remotely diagnose patients, impacting approximately 37,000 residents surrounding these facilities. The use of high definition remotely operated pan, tilt and zoom cameras and digitally connected medical devices such as otoscopes, stethoscopes and other primary medical indicating devices will allow a patient doctor virtual reality type interaction. The project hardware will also allow physicians to consult collaboratively and in real time with patients even if all parties are in different physical locations.

  • Southeast Community College in Nebraska received a $495,631 Distance Learning grant to create a multi-campus simulation center connecting Southeast Community College's Lincoln and Beatrice campuses as well as the six learning centers. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, particularly related to health care and bioscience education, will be delivered to a 15-county service area. The College's instructors will provide STEM education courses to rural areas in Southeast Nebraska at the learning center locations benefiting 44,428 people.

    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.