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

Tammi Schone
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, including two projects in South Dakota.

“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.

USDA’s investments in rural South Dakota include:

  • Oglala Lakota College, based in Kyle, is being awarded $491,493 to help Oglala Lakota College purchase equipment to set up Smart Rooms in nine of its instructional centers. This project serves both the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Tribes and will focus on courses in Math and Science, Nursing and Foundational Studies. This cloud-based learning system will expand access to class sessions allowing more than 1,400 students per semester, with lack of childcare, lack of transportation and/or illness to connect to mentors, tutors and continued learning. This is a STEM project.
  • Avera Health, based in Sioux Falls, is receiving $436,054 to help purchase telemedicine equipment expanding Avera Health's telehealth network. Avera Health will connect forty-two (42) end-user sites located across North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska to its hub in Sioux Falls, SD. This project will focus on improving the quality and quantity of life by providing access to up-to-date quality specialty healthcare. The project will reduce the disparities in healthcare that exist in rural areas as compared to more urban areas by providing specialized healthcare through the telemedicine healthcare network, which includes treatment and prevention of opioid misuse. This project will further expand Avera's telehealth network, reaching up to 411,026 rural residents in five states including Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. 

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.