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

Erika Archie
Release Date

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue yesterday announced that USDA is awarding grants for 128 projects to increase access to job training (PDF, 351 KB), 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. State Director Edd Hargett reported that $2.2 million of that is being invested in Texas.

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

  • Southwest Texas Junior College is being awarded at total of $973,177 to help deliver interactive distance learning to three rural colleges and two public high schools in low income areas of southwest Texas. The project will upgrade and enhance a portion of the distance learning network. Each rural college campus site will have classrooms outfitted with cameras, microphone and audio and video peripherals and each high school will have cameras and microphone. The network will share 59 courses between college campuses and provide 59 dual credit courses to participating high schools. This will include 37 STEM courses for participating colleges and 13 STEM courses for participating high schools. The project will serve 1,266 college students, 569 high school students, and 365 adults.
  • Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center will use $499,227 to complete a telemedicine delivery service project to seven (7) sites located in a five-county rural service area in West Texas. The predominant use of this project is to deliver quality health care via telemedicine services. The project will directly impact approximately 1,500 students at rural school districts. An additional 1,200 patients will receive increased access to specialty care, specifically psychology, neurology, surgery, and pediatrics. They will also be able to reduce average travel time spent, which for rural patients had historically been a minimum of an eight-hour round trip for specialty visits. The equipment provided will include telehealth carts and video terminals.
  • Info-Net Consortium is being awarded $391,000 for the purchase and installation of video-conferencing equipment. This project replaces and enhances distance learning equipment within eight schools providing access to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education for students in five central Texas counties. The project connects students and communities to colleges providing dual-credit courses, STEM-based education and career skills while providing continuing education opportunities to community residents. Project will impact approximately 1,200 students, their teachers and thousands of residents located in the project communities. 
  • Winters HC Operator LLC will use $358,975 to address opioid misuse.  Interactive telemedicine equipment will be installed at 13 rehabilitation and nursing care facilities in nine counties in Texas. Telehealth carts will allow access to specialty physicians at remote locations. The project will lower the amount of unnecessary emergency department transfers and improve continuity of care, including opioid misuse prevention and education for more than 1,000 patients.

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.