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USDA Connects Rural Mainers to Health Care and Education Options with $1.7M in Grants

Leigh Hallett
Release Date

Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants to fund 
health and education programs across eight Maine counties. 

Bangor, Nov. 22, 2023 – As 2023 draws to a close, rural Mainers can look forward to more healthcare and education options in the year ahead due to grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Rhiannon Hampson announced three new awards today. Two recipients in Maine and one in New Hampshire will use the grants to provide distance learning and telehealth resources to rural Maine residents. Together, the three Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants (DLT) will benefit an estimated 79,000 individuals across the two states.

“At USDA Rural Development we believe everyone should have access to quality healthcare and educational resources, regardless of the size or location of their community,” said Director Hampson. “There is an urgent need for more health care options in rural areas. And across Maine, we need more diverse educational opportunities, including workforce development and science, technology, engineering, and math classes for students. The Biden-Harris Administration is making unprecedented funding available to move the needle on broadband connectivity and to provide the equipment necessary to utilize it fully. We’re excited to support these projects that will help do so in eight Maine counties.”

The three grant recipients announced today will offer a range of services at many different types of locations, from classrooms to libraries and community centers.

  • Regional School Unit No. 10 (Rumford) will use its $982,191.00 grant to equip sites in Oxford and Franklin counties with interactive video-conferencing equipment and other resources. Instructors from multiple school districts will expand their collaboration to deliver expanded course offerings and mental health services. Programming will include workforce development, job training, continuing education, and professional development. The project will benefit approximately 3000 students across multiple campuses.
  • The University of New Hampshire Center for Digital Health Innovation (Durham) will use its $129,746.00 grant to equip sites in Strafford, Sullivan, Carroll and Grafton counties in New Hampshire and Kennebec County in Maine with video conferencing, assistive technologies, and virtual reality equipment. This will allow health professionals located at the Center for Digital Health Innovation to offer virtual reality-based mental health and physical rehabilitation services to these underserved rural areas. The six community sites include libraries, a youth and senior center, and a Cooperative Extension office, serving a total of approximately 70,000 rural residents.
  • VNA Home Health and Hospice (dba Northern Light Homecare and Hospice, South Portland) will use its $614,700.00 grant to provide services from sites in Androscoggin, Aroostook, Cumberland, Hancock, Kennebec, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Oxford, Somerset, Waldo, and York  counties in Maine with updated telehealth equipment. Health professionals from Northern Light Home Care & Hospice will use the equipment to deliver home care and hospice services to approximately 6000 rural Mainers.

USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants help rural communities use technology to overcome the challenges posed by remoteness and low population density. The grants may fund the purchase of audio, video, and interactive equipment, broadband facilities used for distance learning or telemedicine, computer hardware, network components, and software, and instructional programming. State and local governments, federally recognized tribes, nonprofits, and other entities that provide education and healthcare are eligible to apply.

Although the USDA Rural Development DLT program is not currently accepting applications, there likely will be an open application period in the coming months. Interested Maine applicants may contact Robert Fry, Telecom General Field Representative (robert.fry@usda.gov or 202 768 0589) with questions.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.


Read comments from DLT grant recipients here.